Ballooning Pioneer Celebrates 80th Birthday with Skydive
Bob Zanella is a pioneer in ballooning in Northeast Ohio. Zanella became interested in ballooning after seeing a ballooning documentary in the early 70s. Shortly after he purchased for himself a Semco balloon and became one of Ohio’s first licensed balloon pilots. Since then Zanella has been a huge supporter of competition ballooning. He teaches his students the art of steering a balloon and uses competition ideas to increase piloting skills. Zanella has over 3500 hours in balloons, has instructed 93 students to their private pilot certs, and has provided 222 check rides. As an Elizabeth Dumont Safety Award winner he has participated in every BFA or NABA Nationals for over 40 years. A founding member of the Northeast Ohio Balloon Pilots Association, he helped promote ballooning and competition in the region, making it one of the most competition rich areas of the country. To honor his efforts and contributions NOBPA named their Club Championship after Zanella. Earlier this fall Zanella celebrated his 80th birthday. The following is an account of his celebratory skydive sent to us by Mike Emich.
. . Lifelong friend and mentor Bob Zanella asked me earlier this year if I could help set up a skydive for him in celebration of his 80th birthday, which I eagerly agreed to do. I have been friends with Bob since 1972. Bob originally got me interested in skydiving while we talked about his exploits on a trip to New Jersey for his balloon check ride that year. Bob would later sign me off for my balloon license in 1974. . Bob was one of the early members of the Greater Akron Skydivers back in the early 1960's. The club did most of their jumps at the Akron Municipal Airport in Akron, Ohio. Bob told me he made several hundred jumps with them using old surplus parachutes. . I made plans for us to jump at AEROHIO drop zone in Rittman, Ohio. Old skydiving friends Linda and John Winkler agreed to help and promised to take good care of my old friend Bob. Balloonist Ted Watts from Meadville, PA, also a mutual friend of Bob and myself wanted to jump with us. So the three of us would jump out of a Cessna Caravan on October 3, 2010. Bob and Ted would be doing tandems and I would follow them out. . As things would have the weather looked bad for Sunday but perfect for Friday, October 1st. unfortunately the Caravan is only available on weekends so Bob and Ted would have to make separate jumps out of a Cessna 182. I figured that with our busy schedules, fall weather coming in, etc. we needed to try and do this if it was going to happen at all. . With a tandem master, Bob, a freefall photographer (John Winkler) and another student there would be no room for me to go along. Since I have not jumped for a few years I would have to make a recurrency jump anyway for which there was no time. My goal that day was to get Bob and Ted a jump. Things had to happen perfectly as we didn't know we had a tandem master until 3:00PM and sunset was at 6:45. Ted immediately left Meadville for the DZ. Bob got geared up and was airborne while Ted was still driving to Rittman. I don't know how fast he was driving but he made it before Bob jumped from 10,500 feet. The DZ personnel made a quick turnaround, including refueling the 182 and got Ted a jump as well just before a beautiful sunset. Many thanks to all the folks at AEROHIO for making this happen! . Even though I did not get to jump with my friends it was worth all the effort to see their faces after they landed! Make sure to ask them about their jumps the next time you see them.