Meet the 2024 Pilots

Bruce Byberg

New Jersey

It was 1989 when I saw my first hot air balloon.  I traveled around crewing for the pilot and purchased my first balloon before having even taken a ride! Earned my certificate in 3 months and quickly was flying more than 300 passengers a year.

I’ve had the privilege of piloting the Fanta balloon (in Norway and Sweden), United Van Lines, Anheuser Busch, and Werehburg theater popcorn bag-shaped balloon. For the past 25 years, I operated the New England skies in the iconic Re/Max balloon accumulating almost 4,000 hours of flight time.

Some of my fondest memories of ballooning are the many flights with Paul Newman and his friends, giving children rides at Paul Newman’s special summer camps, and flying over the pyramids in Mexico and the countryside of Norway. I love flying in Quechee  and am looking forward to floating over this beautiful countryside.

I maintain membership with the Balloon Federation of America, Great Eastern Balloon Association, Connecticut Lighter than Air Society, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association.

Sally Lidinsky

New Jersey

Sally Lidinsky is excited to be flying her balloon “Pachycephalosaurus” in Quechee for the first time this year. The balloon was designed by Sally and named by Matt and Sally’s daughter, Eleanor. For Sally, ballooning is all about family. Her parents have been involved in ballooning since the 1970s and she grew up around it. She loves sharing the magic of ballooning with children, especially her daughter.

Joe and Beth Hamilton

Florida

Joe and Beth have been flying for 36 years now, taking them from New England and Canada to Florida and California with many stops in between.  They are always looking for new festivals and new scenery to enjoy while they continue attending their favorite events away from home. Quechee has been one of those special places! It offers a big challenge with the mountains and the gorge, and the views are spectacular!

Andre Boucher

New Hampshire

Andre Boucher’s love of ballooning started 34 years ago while on his way to work, he saw a hot air balloon in Pittsfield, NH.  He began to crew and got his commercial pilot license on October 29, 1994.  Andre has over thousands of  hours as a Pilot in Command and has flown in many of the states in the US, including Alaska, Montana, and New Mexico. Andre has also flown in Canada, France, and Leon, Mexico.  Andre purchased two new balloons from Kubicek and visited the factory in the Czech Republic in March 2019.

Jim Rodrigue

Maine

Around 1994, Jim and his family started crewing for his cousin Andre and other pilots during their local Great Falls Balloon Festival, as well as in Quechee. He took his first pilot lesson with Balloon Meister Bill Whidden and was forever hooked. Jim earned his private license in 1999 and commercial license in 2000, and has flown in ME, NH, VT, MA, NY, NJ, OH, and Canada. Since 2009, he has enjoyed flying at the Quechee festival. Check us out on Facebook at Androscoggin Balloon Adventures.

Don LaFountain

Massachusetts

Don LaFountain (Owner/Pilot) started out crewing for other balloons and that led to his desire to pilot his own. He then went on to receive his Commercial Pilot Certificate. He has flown throughout New England and in 2006 Don was a member of the American Balloon Team and competed in the 36th annual Irish Ballooning Championships in Athlone, Ireland. In 2007 Don started Misty River Ballooning located in Florence, MA. “I am looking forward to another year of flying in Quechee, VT. We have had a great time every year with beautiful views!”

Darrek Daoust

Vermont

“Every flight is a new adventure. What is most enjoyable is the great people you can meet from all over the world. From Bermuda to the Azores, Cape Town to Moscow.

Darrek began his hot air ballooning career as a crew in the mid-1990s, but before too long, realized that he wanted his balloon. Darrek graduated from a 141 Flight School located in Park City, Utah. Darrek is an FAA Certified Commercial Pilot, flying year-round in Quechee. He has had the pleasure of flying in Italy, parts of Europe, and Canada.

For recent ballooning adventures and aerial photos of the beautiful Quechee area, visit our website: www.balloonsofvermont.com or find us on Facebook!

Tim Strand

Pennsylvania

Tim Strand has been a pilot since 1979 and has participated in the Quechee Balloon Festival since the early 1990s.

It’s an extremely picturesque area to fly balloons. The Chamber of Commerce does a spectacular job of promoting the event, and every year (weather permitting!), lots of people get to share the wonderful experience of a lighter-than-air flight aboard a balloon. Even those that would rather stay on the ground are treated to a spectacular vista of dozens of hot air balloons dotting the sky against the scenic green mountain backdrop.

“It’s one of my favorite events of the year!” says Tim. “Friendly passengers, welcoming landowners, and fantastic scenery! What’s not to like?”

Tim looks forward to participating for years to come!

Paul Sena

Massachusetts

Paul, from Worthington, Massachusetts, ” I started flying balloons in 1990 and in the past 34 years have logged thousands of flights. With my wife Judy as a faithful crew, we always look forward to Quechee weekend. We have traveled to Ireland 15 times over the years and were on the winning team at the Irish championships twice. Over the past years, we also have flown in New Zealand, Costa Rica, Colorado, and up and down the east coast from New England to Florida. During the winter and spring, we are busy making Maple Syrup on our Farm in Worthington Massachusetts. Two years our son Jared, opened the “Sena Farm Brewery” at our homestead so if you’re in the neighborhood please stop in to say hello and have a pint… Soft Landings.”

Rich Hamilton

New York

Rich got his start in ballooning in the early 90’s after gifting his wife Lori a flight for her birthday. She enjoyed it so much that they started going to balloon festivals (and dragging the rest of the family with them). He made some good friends (pilots and crew) along the way; asked a bunch of questions and eventually started taking flying lessons. He bought his own balloon; finished his flight training with a local pilot and earned his pilot certificate in 2008. Today he runs Adventure with Altitude Ballooning LLC based in Poughkeepsie, NY. Rich loves to fly in Vermont. Quechee is such a friendly event. Stop by and say hi to Rich and his crew when you visit his balloon, “Rainbow With A View”!

Denny Wesler

Ohio

“I became hooked on ballooning in 1982 upon taking my first ride in a hot air balloon. My wife said she knew that I was going to buy a balloon because I was asking our pilot so many questions. I became a pilot in 1983 and have flown in rallies throughout the US, Mexico, and Canada. I am Currently president of Heaven Bound Ascensions, a hot air balloon ride company providing passenger rides in beautiful Northeast Ohio.”

“Quechee, Vermont is one of my all-time favorite balloon events. The countryside is absolutely breathtaking. We have created lifelong friendships with many of the folks here in Quechee and always look forward to sharing our love of ballooning while making new friends.”

Michael Olin

New Hampshire

Mike began his aviation career in 1988 with a fixed-wing pilot license. In the late 1990s, he took his first hot air balloon ride and fell in love with the sport. After crewing for 15 years he was able to purchase his own balloon and add Lighter Than Air rating to his pilot’s license. Naming his balloon “Heaven Sent” as a tribute to his parents and sister who are now watching him fly from Heaven. Ballooning has become a family passion with his son and friends now learning to fly; he is passing on what he has learned.

Jim Regan

Connecticut

Jim Regan is the owner & chief pilot for CT Ballooning, LLC. He got started in ballooning as ground crew in 1986 and earned his pilots certificate in 1991. Jim’s piloting experience includes flying both regular & special shaped balloons in Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and throughout the US. Jim loves flying in the Quechee area as the hills & mountains are beautiful from aloft, but also a challenge to fly in.

Matt Lindinski

New Jersey

Matt Lidinsky took his first flight in a balloon at the age of seven. Every flight is still awesome and amazing in its own unique way. He has been a pilot for twenty years and has had the opportunity to fly in some unique locations including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Red Rock Park in Church Rock, NM. Matt is looking forward to flying “3LC” in Quechee and experiencing the beauty of Vermont!

Eric LaMontagne

Rhode Island

I’m excited to fly in my 9th Quechee Balloon Festival! Quechee is my favorite place to fly. I have been involved in balloons since 1983 when my parents and I went for our first flight with Paul Stumpf in Rhode Island. My Mom and Dad, Paul Stumpf and Darrek Doaust have always inspired me to chase my dreams and supported me to help make them a reality. Up, up and away, let’s fly!

Dick Young and Mary Beth Young

New Jersey and New York

Mary Beth & Dick Young are delighted to be Flying at the ever-amazing 44th Quechee Balloon Festival! 2024 marks Mary Beth & Dick’s 27th year of Flying at Quechee, …and their 48th year of sharing the romance of Ballooning. Vermont is even more beautiful from a Hot Air Balloon! The VT mountains and valleys are gorgeous, the people are friendly and welcoming, who can resist Flying at Quechee? Feel the indescribable tranquility, peacefulness, and joy, floating on the tree tops, or savoring 360° views of the Green Mountains. Mary Beth & Dick share their love of the joy and the freedom of Flying in a Balloon with each other, and with each of the Guests for whom they Pilot. At the 2016 Quechee Balloon Festival, Mary Beth & Dick had the honor of Flying Proposal Flights, not just 1, not just 2, but 3 in a row! Thanks to the great work of the World’s Best Balloon Crew, each Flight floated gently over the scenic Vermont countryside and quaint villages, to safe landings in beautiful spots. And, The Good News is that all of the young ladies said “Yes!” Uplifting moments to be treasured!

Jason Boucher

New Hampshire

Jason, is a second generation hot air balloon pilot from Chester, NH. In 2004 Jason decided he wanted to take his love of ballooning to a new height and in just 10 short months Jason accomplished his goal and became a commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has flown in NJ, NY, ME, CT, MA, VT, NH and Canada logging hundreds of hours of flight time.