Young Pilot ready for takeoff

by Grace Gustafson
Correspondent
The Independent News

Brock Gale has been a hot-air balloon pilot for several years. Before becoming a pilot, he worked as a crew member for other balloon pilots.

As a crew member, Gale has traveled to Albuquerque, N.M. and Quebec, Canada.

For the last 47 years, Albuquerque has been home to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot-air balloon festival in the world, boasting over one thousand balloons of all shapes and sizes launching from a field the size of eleven football fields.

According to Gale, the crew is instrumental in keeping the pilot safe. The crew will conduct safety checks of the balloon, monitor the weather conditions, and look for adequate landing sites.

To become a pilot, Gale had to complete certain criteria including a written exam, verbal exam, flight test, and training with a commercially licensed pilot. 

Gale now owns his own hot-air balloon which is 90,000 cubic feet, which would be the equivalent volume of 90,000 basketballs.

Gale must keep his balloon well-maintained for safety and compliance with FAA regulations.

He likes to fly his hot-air balloon as much as the weather and his schedule allows.

Hot air balloons are only able to control whether they are going up and down, which means that pilots like Brock have to depend on the weather to determine how far and when Gale is able to fly his balloon.

Ballooning is such a big part of Gale’s life, that he even proposed to his now wife in a balloon. 

Their wedding was attended by many of the local balloon pilots that are also flying in this event.

Gale’s late father-in-law was one of the men who helped start the original Balloon Classic in Vermilion County.

Today, Balloons Over Vermilion helps carry on the legacy of ballooning in Vermilion County, as it has grown as an event and attracted pilots from not just  Central Illinois and Indiana, but from Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and even as far away as Georgia.

There are not many balloon pilots around the globe,  but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any Gale said “I’ve met pilots from all over the world.”

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