05 Dec 2023

2023 BFA balloon camps: How to inspire youth to take flight

By Katie Griggs, BFA Youth Program Chairman

In 2023, the Ballooning Federation of America (BFA) had a total of 60 young people attending three sleepover camps and two Event Camps. All camps were successful, in that the campers could learn from experienced pilots and get hands on experiences with the balloons.

Since 2014, more than 37 campers have gone on to become pilots themselves.

Southeast Balloon Camp  

Our first camp was the Southeast Balloon Camp held in Cordele GA. June 20-25. This was a 5 day traditional sleep over type of camp. There were 21 campers.

The facility was a large church camp property in the Georgia countryside. It had ample accommodations with extensive fields, a large kitchen, dining hall, command center, dorms, and a swimming pool.

Duncan Dunavent was the director. Duncan was once a camper himself in many camps. He became a pilot and then become a staff member in the Georgia camp, and now has taken the leadership role for the camp.

The weather made things difficult with heavy rains before camp, leaving the area deep with mud. Tethering and flying came late in the week, and all campers got a chance for hands on experience with the equipment.

Classroom discussions included Powerline/Crew Resource Management, Charts/Airspace, Knots/tethering/types of Ballooning, Fire Extinguishers, Flight Ops, Refueling, Regulations, and more.

Activities included Tye Dye, model balloon building, trip to the Museum, flight operations, and tethering.

Rio Grande Balloon Camp

Our Second camp was the Rio Grande Balloon Camp held in Albuquerque, NM July 8-13. This was another 5 day traditional sleep over type of camp. There were 15 campers.

The facility was a combination of the University of New Mexico for dorm rooms and some meals, the National Balloon Museum for classroom activities, and the Albuquerque Balloon Park for flight and tether activities.

Neida Courtney Bueno is the director. Neida has directed multiple camps and is a long time pilot and staff member for AIBF.

Campers gained hands-on experience with two morning flights. They could inflate, deflate, and they got tether experience. They built and flew tissue paper balloons. Then also rode the tram and hiked the crest trail of the Sandia Mountains. They discovered they could stuff 11 campers into an old-fashioned phone booth.

Classroom topics covered various subjects such as weather, aeronautical decision making, balloon safety, knot tying, propane safety, commercial operations, balloon repairs, wildfire prevention, and more.

High Sierra Balloon Camp

Our Third camp was the High Sierra Balloon Camp (top picture) held at Lake Tahoe, near Reno, NV July 16-21. This was also a 5 day traditional sleepover type of camp.

The facility was a 4-H camp on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Flying operations were a 45 minute drive down the mountain in the Carson Valley.

Karalyn Mumm served as director for many years and has been active in the camps for even longer.

They got in 3 flight operations where all campers gained hands on experience. The campers participated in tethered flight operations that involved the 4-H campers from a separate camp at the same facility.

The activities include building airspace models, competition flying discussion, balloon walk, candlestick operation, crown line tug-of-war, and an equilibrium game.

DinahSoar BFA Youth Camp

Our first event camp was the DinahSoar BFA Youth Camp. This camp was in Vernal Utah during the DinahSoar Balloon Event.

There were 9 campers at this event.

Kent Barnes has directed this camp for the last three years. Kent also serves on the BFA Youth Program committee.

Subjects covered in the classroom session: weather, ballooning safety, special shape flying, airport operations, basket dive/system comparisons, knots and rope handling, crew roles and responsibilities, and ballooning history.

We selected 3 commercially rated pilots to provide the flights for the campers. The pilots taught their 3 campers about all aspects of flying, including weather, balloon setup, launching, maneuvers, landings, and post flight procedures.

Boise BFA Youth Camp

Our Second Event camp was the Boise BFA Youth Camp. Camp Consisted of 3 classroom sessions and 2 flight sessions.

This was a first time event camp at a long-standing event. This camp was in Boise, Idaho during the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic. There were 5 campers in attendance.

Ron Cassidy served as director for this camp.

This camp was on one day at Ann Morrison Park. Campers came the night before for an orientation, and then Saturday morning they had hands on experience crewing and flying hot air balloons. After the flights, the campers got additional classroom time with experienced crew and pilots. The topics discussed included weather, radio communications, accident response, landowner relations, refueling, and careers in aviation.