Co-owner Rick Bowers(Pilot): "I love to fly! My dad, a private pilot, took me for my first flight at age 5 in a Cessna trainer, I have harbored an intense passion for flight ever since. I started flying airplanes in the '80s. When the opportunity to become a Asheville Hot Air Balloons partner presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity. My motives were purely self- center... spend the mornings doing what I love - flying, while viewing these spectacular mountains. I still love the sport but get even greater satisfaction sharing with others (passengers) this magnificent country of Western North Carolina."
Jimmy and Jennifer Bowers: (Rick's brother) Just say the words "Hot Air Balloon" to week-end chasers Jimmy and Jennifer Bowers, and smiles light up their faces. After hundreds of balloon trips and wild chases they continue to describe ballooning as "thrilling, absolutely awesome, and incredible”.
Garrison Bowers: (Rick’s son) "I like flying; it’s such a majestic feeling. There’s elation. But, chasing is a rush. I like it better than flying only because I love to see the balloon coming down and meet the challenge of doing a perfect landing. It’s a different challenge every time. The experience is never the same."
Mike Hall: says he is afraid of heights, but likes riding in hot air balloons. "You’re actually kind of motionless, so it’s not uncomfortable. The views are really beautiful, too, so you kind of forget you’re up high. I like chasing, though, because your adrenalin gets going; keeping up with where the balloon is going, figuring out how to get to where the wind just swept it. That gets exciting."
Asheville Hot Air Balloon’s talented team of fourteen “chasers” is as lively and colorful as any of their balloons. They laugh constantly, can finish each other’s sentences, and they skillfully ensure that lift-offs and landings are performed expertly and feel light as a feather.
The team shares a wealth of knowledge, years of experience, and a genuine enjoyment for producing great hot air balloon experiences for passengers.
Co-owner Danny Smith(Pilot): has loved watching hot air ballooning since he was eight years old. Growing up next to a field used for landing the colorful and gentle giants, Smith decided early on he wanted to learn the ropes as a “chaser”. His enthusiasm has resulted in his family and friends being long time members of the “chase” crew.
“Chasing” means keeping a constant track of where the wind is taking the balloon,” says Smith. “We need to keep it in sight, and be ready. When the pilot has a clear enough area to land, they throw a rope over the side, so “chasers” can grab it and pull the balloon down to ground. With a vast terrain of mountains, forest and valleys in the area, and a plethora of country roads, keeping up with a balloon can be a challenge in itself.
“Since wind is unpredictable it can be quite a chase sometimes," Smith continues, “When the balloon suddenly tours down into a valley, we have to know which roads will get us there the fastest.That's when the adrenalin starts pumping; because when the balloon is ready to land, you want four or five strong people to be in place to grab it, and steer it just to avoid landing in people’s back yards, pools, gardens…”