The Rest of the Story - 2010 Fiesta Champion Bryan Hill
Bryan Hill (right) and Lindstrand's Phil Thompson
This week BalloonPong had the opportunity to sit down and discuss 2010 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta with this year’s winner, Bryan Hill.Bryan took first place, winning a new LindstrandHopper. Bryan is from Page, Arizona where when not flying balloons he is the General Manager for a local utility company, Page Electric Utility.
Bryan has been flying balloons since 1999 in the four corners area, having been a fixed wing pilot for more than 20 years Bryan has really found his sport in ballooning.Flying his first balloon, a Cameron AX8, Bryan flew four great days of competition at this year’s fiesta.He finished with three (3) second places and one (1) seventh place in his group with a final score of 3,895 and a total distance of just 98.45 feet.
Most of his competitive flying includes events in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.Competition and balloon events have become real enjoyment for Bryan, now attending about 12 events annually.He balloonmiesters 2 events annually in Page/Lake Powell, Arizona and Panguitch, Utah.These events are much smaller than Fiesta with 54 and 35 balloons respectively.“I have only attended one event in the Midwest and the rest of my flying has been in the four corners area.”
Bryan has been attending Fiesta for the last 11 years and finds the event one of the highlights of the year.“I really enjoy the event, the flying is complex but I really enjoy the competitive flying”.Bryan has been flying a banner for his home community of Lake Powel at Fiesta for several years.At first, Fiesta was just fun flying and camaraderie.Over the years he has worked at getting the balloon over the field and the crowd, thus finding his way to the targets.In 2006 he finished 9th overall and took on serious competition.“This yearthe weather was great for competition, we flew 8 out of 9 days, it was nearly perfect, I really enjoyed the flying this year”, said Bryan.
When asked what he did different this year to prepare for Fiesta competition Bryan attributed it to his additional flying this season.“Usually I fly 40-45 hours prior to Fiesta, however, this year I flew more like 90 hours before Fiesta, this really allowed me to fine tune my skills”.Bryan did a lot of passenger flying prior to Fiesta this year and he attributes this year’s win to this additional flying.
This year’s Fiesta saw 4 consecutive days of competition, which made for some great scores.The final scheduled day of competition saw some unfavorable weather to the west. “I think Fiesta made the correct decision to cancel competition on Friday morning, I just was not comfortable with the weather and if there would have been competition I would have had additional pressure to fly”.Bryan agrees that the decision to cancel competition made for a safer event.
This year’s Fiesta was the first to distinguish competitors and non competitors with nearly 200 pilots choosing to enter the competition and the remainder choosing to just fly for the sport. Nearly 200 balloons still entered the competition and 165 pilots scored over the four days. “The competition was still stiff but, it was a good move to allow some pilots to opt out of the competition”.
Bryan characterized this year’s event as a more gentlemanly event.The past couple of years the gravel pit to the north has not been available on the fly-in mornings which has resulted in everyone having to find a launch site. “It was really crazy when everyone just went to the gravel pit” says Bryan “I think it is much safer now that the field is spread out and people have to work themselves back to the field”.
When asked about winning Fiesta Bryan said “it really blew me away, I knew I was good but I did not think I was in first place” Winning the hopper was great, but he was really overwhelmed with the first place finish.Bryan is trading his winning hopper in on a new 105 envelope to fly his passengers back home.“It is pretty neat to win a $23,000.00 system, but I can really use a new envelope” said Bryan.
Bryan has attended Fiesta with his father, extended family and friends for several years.He considers it a privilege to fly at Fiesta.His father also enjoys the competition and helps Bryan in making the decisions on launch sites.Bryan and his father typically go out watch pibals and then watch the balloons leaving the field very close. “Typically there is a change once the balloons on the field start to take off and I adjust my launch site based on what I see coming off the field”.Bryan tries to be one of the first balloons over the field, once the scoring is open, catching the winds most similar to those the balloons coming off the field had.Bryan also pays close attention to the pibal readings given at the morning briefings, as the upper winds of these pibals typically provide him with valuable data on the winds during his flying period.
Bryan thinks that Fiesta is on the right track with some of the recent changes.“Fiesta is an outstanding event, they do a lot for the pilots, you have to be careful flying there and you need to pick your times to fly and your times to stay on the ground”, says Bryan.“On Friday I saw the thunderstorms and I looked hard at the weather. We have to police ourselves to not give in to pressure on days when the weather is not appropriate for flying”.Bryan did not fly on Friday but isn’t critical of those pilots that did, as the weather turned out to be great for flying.“Our landing areas are tighter, kudos to Fiesta for canceling competition when the weather was marginal, but ultimately it ends up on the shoulders of the pilots”.
BalloonPong would like to thank Bryan for taking the time to set down and have a conversation with us and BalloonPong congratulates Bryan on an excellent competition this year at Fiesta.