Havasu Teen Has Sights Set On Hot Air Balloon Piloting

Havasu Teen Has Sights Set On Hot Air Balloon Piloting
Janet Cruz / 07 Jan 2023 / No Comments » Comments

By Janet Cruz

There have been some hot air balloons spotted around Lake Havasu City recently, and no doubt soon the skies will be filled with even more closer to the annual Anderson Toyota Havasu Balloon Festival this month.

How many have wondered what it takes to fly one? One local teen is getting a head start on learning the ropes and getting his balloon pilot license.

Lake Havasu High School student 18- year-old Ethan Stroup has his sights set on hot air balloon pilot training and has begun doing so at his young age. With the help of pilot Jim Gebhart from Iowa, he is learning  and will eventually get licensed. Getting licensed, according to Gebhert, requires skill, dedication and passing a written and flight exam.

Ethan Stroup gets ready to fire up the burner before a hot air balloon flight. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

“There is also the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) written test that he is required to take after studying,” he said. Gebhert has trained more than 40 pilots over the years and also flies himself, and is making sure Stroup successfully fulfills the requirements both written and on the air.

“Ethan will have to also log flight hours, anywhere from 10 to 12 hours,” he said.

So what exactly does Stroup have to master?

He must learn how to set up the balloon, inflate it and make sure a set of propane tanks are carefully placed. The balloon’s basket must be positioned upwind before the burners or tanks are positioned. In order to inflate the balloon, it must be filled with cold air before hot air is added. Crews are also involved to hold the balloon in place before the pilot is ready to take flight. Mastering flying and landing and steering the balloon is also involved according to Gebhart.

Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

Stroup has been around hot air balloon pilots and has taken flights as early as 6 years old. His first ride was on the balloon known as “The Sunsational  Balloon” piloted by Kathy and Dave Reineke. Stroup’s family has been around hot air balloon pilots as well. His mother Ginger Stroup with Accurate Measures in Lake Havasu City, sponsors the balloon each year and says his  exposure to hot air balloons has inspired her son’s appreciation and love of the trade.

“When Ethan was very little, the Reinekes gave them his first balloon ride, says Ginger Stroup. “They knew Ethan would have a future in being a balloon pilot,” adds Stroup. “They just knew he would.”

Stroup says her son has enjoyed the balloon festival since the first time he attended but really is thankful to the pilots who took him on a ride and now the training he is receiving to reach his goal of becoming a pilot.

“After  he attended the Balloon Federation of America Camp in 2021 in New Mexico, and he loved it,” she adds.

“He has overcome some personal challenges being on the spectrum and to see him grow to love something makes me really happy. Ballooning is his thing.”

Ethan Stroup will be at balloon fest this year which takes place Jan. 19 through  22. For more information on the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival, visit RiverScene Magazine’s event page for more information.

Jim Gebhart instructs Ethan Stroup before a balloon flight. Jillian Danielson/RiverScene


Jillian Danielson/RiverScene

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