You could say it was love at first flight. Steve Jones’ father attended the US National Balloon Championships in Indianola, Iowa, in 1976, working on a balloon crew and then riding in the balloon. He called Steve on his way home, raving about the experience and trying to convince Steve to partner with him and buy a balloon. Steve was certain that his dad had lost his mind; nevertheless, he consented and soon thereafter he was hooked on the experience. He earned his pilot’s license, a requirement for balloon piloting, and became a member of the ballooning community, enjoying the camaraderie and the competitions.
When he competes, Steve flies an UltraMagic racer balloon that is 56,000 cubic feet, a bit smaller than an average balloon. “Texas Magic” is the name of his vibrant yellow, orange and red balloon that can hold 77,000 cubic feet of hot air. He has won numerous events over the years and enjoys the friendly competition provided in the ballooning community.
“Most of the competitors have been around a good number of years. We know each other well, and I consider these friends family.”
43 years in ballooning and he’s still enthusiastic about the sport. Steve has had his share of rough landings and experiences in bad weather. But the thrill of flying and the pleasure of seeing festival attendees become mesmerized by the balloons brings him back time after time.
Steve has had the privilege of ballooning around the globe. Among his favorites are the Monroe Balloon & Blues Festival in Wisconsin, a quaint, small town near the southern border of the state; Central Texas, with its famed and stunning Hill Country; the arid, mountainous kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East and its beautiful wadis (steep-sided valleys that are usually dry but may temporarily contain water during heavy rains); and Tanzania in East Africa, where he was able to fly over the wildlife and over Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet.
“I attended the first Plano Balloon event in 1980 and the first 10 years of the event,” says Steve Jones.
“The Plano Balloon Festival is a first class event. Always well run in regards to the people who attend the event as well the pilots, and the Plano Balloon Festival is one of the very best events anywhere.”
As he looks to the future, Steve hopes to see more young people become interested in the sport. He believes that once the younger generation experiences the fun and adventure of ballooning, they’ll be hooked just like he was.
Although he lives almost three hours away in Belton, the Plano Balloon Festival is not-to-be-missed, as far as Steve is concerned.
He says, “I enjoy Plano [Balloon Festival] because I get to see long-time and new balloon friends. For me, it’s a social event that I hate to miss.”
“PILOT STEVE JONES BALLOONING FOR 43 YEARS AROUND THE WORLD” written by : Maridee Dietzel