Meet the 2020 Pilots

Ken Leota

Howell, NJ

My name is Ken Leota and I have been involved in ballooning for 37 years, along with my wife Janet. Our kids, Adam and Katie, have been crewing with us since birth! As things have progressed, Adam's girlfriend Courtney and Katie's husband Brandon are now part of the Team. We have been Very Lucky to have had long time friends/crew members, Vince & Patty, John & Rosie, and their families (as well as many others). One of the many things I love about Ballooning is the friends and smiles we have made over the years... looking back I wouldn't have changed a thing - except maybe starting sooner! We are truly Blessed to be able to share this wonderful sport with everyone we have met over the years!

"Sir Prize"

Sponsored By: VanCampen Motors

"Never Too Old"

Sponsored By: Intrada Technologies

Rudi Sachenbacher

Lowell, MA

Interested in ballooning since the ‘70s’ crewing for Tom Stodolski. Been a pilot since 1998. Countries flown in are France, Mexico, Canada. What I like most about ballooning is no time constraints, no schedules, no particular destination in mind, the whatever-whereever-whenever feeling that I get when I run away from home to go flying.

Robin's Balloon"

Sponsored By:

Bob Mueller

Pittstown, New Jersey

Have been able to use ballooning to foster my other luvs, traveling and meeting new people in new places. Thanks to friends and ballooning, I have been able to travel to and see other countries through the locals eyes, not just the back of a tour bus. Currently my other balloon is a RE/MAX and my place of choice is a room with a view of a runway.

Damon Flick

Williamsport, PA (currently live in Dansville, NY)

Got into this hobby after marrying into a ballooning family. After doing this for 17 years, the biggest thrill is seeing the reaction on new passengers faces. I’m also a long time member of the National Ski Patrol serving at Ski Denton and Swain. When not ballooning during the summer, you can find me riding my Sea-Doo either in the Finger Lakes or 1000 Island regions of New York.

Damon Flick

"Prism Too"

Sponsored By:

"Rise Above It"

Sponsored By:

Eck's Garage

Mark Stodolski

Sterling, MA

After crewing and piloting other balloons for thirty years, a common question always asked by new crew or passengers, “Where do you land?” Therefore, when I purchased my balloon 8 years ago, I chose the name, “Destination Unknown”

Been a pilot for 35 years, 17 years (Private & Commercial Pilot), 18 years student. Ballooning for 44 years (June 1976) - First time seeing a balloon and tether ride in the rain at my sister’s high school graduation party in my parent's yard. My Uncle Tom was a student pilot and Charlie Manning and Sue Hall brought their balloon to the party. Owned balloons for 12 years.

My crew is family and friends that are very dedicated, knowledgeable, and ready to go at any time. Without a good strong crew, a pilot cannot fly and have a safe, fun, and successful flight. Thank you very much, “Crew”!!!

Christmas vacation 1977, my Uncle, Tom Stodolski, gave my brother Bob and I our first balloon flight. After 20 minutes, we landed to swap propane tanks and my brother for a friend. After another hour of flying which included sliding across a frozen lake, I began to feel ill. When we landed I immediately went to my Uncle’s car and laid down in the back seat and was unable to help pack up. I find this story so interesting because I am the only family member to follow my Uncle’s footsteps and become a hot air balloon pilot.

Other hobbies include old muscle cars, I still have my first car I bought in 1980 a 1970 Plymouth Duster 340, Curling yes the sport with the stones and sweeping, and riding motorcycles.

Sponsored By:Dittmar Fuel

Chris Sommers

Slatington, Pennsylvania

Tony Saxton

Fleetville, PA

Tony has been involved in ballooning since he was nine years old. His interest started when he saw a balloon fly over his home and his brother Scott insisted they chase the balloon. Tony crewed for a local hot air balloon team and eventually learned to fly. Tony received his Commercial Pilots Certificate in 2000. During his career in ballooning, Tony has crewed or flown balloons in France, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and numerous US states. He has also had the opportunity to fly several special shapes including Balloon Hilda, Chesty the Marine Bull Dog, Uncle Sam, Matrioshka and PEA-NUT the Flying Elephant. Some of his most memorable flights are a flight through the Delaware Water Gap at 55 mph and his flight to 15,000 feet over Lancaster County.

Tony is the current President of the Great Eastern Balloon Association, one of the country's largest balloon clubs.

Ballooning never gets old for Tony. Every flight is unique and he loves to get others involved in the sport as well as teach his crew members to fly. One of the BEST things about ballooning is the people that Tony, his brother, and crew have met over the years.

“Too Bodacious”

Sponsored By:

Eck's Garage

Kelly Dubé

Bloomfield, NJ

Kelly Dubé, director of Balloon Talk, loves to share her love of ballooning. When she is not flying a balloon, she can be found actively presenting educational balloon programming in elementary, middle, and high schools.

She loves helping students enjoy the exploration and innovation of science and the creativity of design in problem solving.

Having home-schooled her own 5 children, she comes equipped to teach “out-of-the- box” and “up-in-a-balloon!” She loves to encourage children to escape the ordinary, to always take the scenic route, and to let their dreams take flight.

“Just Ducky”

Sponsored By:

Jack Edling

North Wales, PA

Been flying hot air balloons since 1985. Live and fly commercially in the flat lander suburbs of Philadelphia. Received my fixed wing Pilot License in a boy scout aviation post when I was sixteen. Except for this Covid virus time, I fly about a dozen balloon festivals per year.

When it is too windy to fly balloons, I fly large animal para foil kites, which do well in the higher winds. When the weather gets worse I throw Boomerangs. Been hunting & fishing in Sullivan county since I was six. Some folks like the sound of the ocean, other prefer those quiet peaceful mountains.

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