BYU graduate Doug Cannon dreamed of flying ever since he was a boy. Now a licensed hot air balloon pilot, he’s helping others reach new heights.
“In my younger days, I looked very seriously at flying military jets and passenger Jets, but flying those would take me away from my family,” he said. “Flying hot air balloons has been a great family activity.”
Lucky Star Hot Air Balloons, Cannon’s Provo-based hot air balloon business, takes passengers on surreal rides above beautiful Utah Valley.
Cannon’s oldest daughter is planning to become a pilot by age 16. Cannon and his daughter work together to stand the balloon on the land during the hot inflation. Passengers put their hands in their pocket and shake around their body to ignore the cold, but once the balloon goes up, they started to smile and wave to viewers. A 77,000 cubic feet hot air balloon changes the color of sky to rainbow as it flies more than 6,000 feet above the sky in a cold morning. When the balloon flies, a designated “chase crew” follows on land below to help navigate. Cannon’s wife is one of the chase crew members. Cannon and his wife joke that she still chases him around.
Landing the hot air balloon is not a perfect science. Whenever the balloon lands in someone’s backyard, Cannon politely asks for permission to dismantle his balloon in their yard.
“It is always important to be respectful of property owners and ask permission,” he said. “In so doing, they are more likely to allow us to land and use their property and will not say, ‘You can’t land here.'”
As a tradition, Cannon shared the history of a hot air balloon, gave Balloonist Prayer and celebrated first-time passengers with a toast on the land. The champagne (or sparkling cider, for Provo community) toast is a hot-air ballooning tradition that goes back to the earliest days of ballooning in France. To this day, the tradition has not stopped.
Kalo Latu, a piano teacher at BYU, had her first air balloon ride this month. After her ride, she could not stop giggling.
“It’s unlike anything you can imagine,” she said. “I’ve been living in Provo for a while, but I discovered some new parks. City layout is nicely done.”
Caitlin Whitaker, 20, from Kanosh, said she went on a ride at five in the morning. She loved it until the hot air balloon got closer to the building.
“I screamed, but people helped to stop it,” she said. “It was very surreal. I felt like looking at a toy village, and people looked like little ants.”
Although some people like Whitaker enjoy riding it, others may not consider ever riding one.
Peter Fife, a junior from Manti studying economics at BYU, said he loves hiking and outdoor activities, but he will never go on a hot air balloon ride.
“I would feel out of control,” he said. “It’s super high. If something went wrong, I would have no ability to change the outcome.”
Despite the fear, Megan Boyle, a cello teacher based in Provo, enjoyed her first ride.
“It felt much more relaxed and calm than an airplane flight,” she said. “It feels like you’re floating through the air instead of flying.”