Youngest operating female hot air balloon pilot opens business in North County
Phoebe Brown will be setting down her roots in Paso Robles offering flights starting June 15
—The whimsical and exciting world of hot air balloons is coming to Paso Robles. Soon, Paso Robles will be gaining a brand new hot air balloon pilot, named Phoebe Brown, and she’s excited to show the Central Coast her view of the world from above. Brown is one of the newest faces in town, moving here from the Bay Area to open her own business, Balloons Over Paso. Brown started ballooning three years ago when she was just 26 years old, after experiencing the hot air ballooning while living in Australia. Her landlord at the time took her on a balloon flight and ever since that moment, she couldn’t get enough. She is currently the youngest female to own her own ballooning company in the United States.
“I fell crazy in love with hot air ballooning while I was living in Australia,” said Brown. “My landlord at the time was a commercial hot air balloonist; one evening he stopped by to let us know there was space available on the balloon and that my roommate and I could ride along. I was incredibly hesitant to go, right up until the moment I actually got into the balloon gondola! After takeoff, all fears of heights were forever erased and a passion was born within me. Till this day, I will vote that my first balloon flight was the best day of my life!”
Her business Balloons Over Paso will be open to the public on June 15 for flights, over the scenic rolling hills and vineyard-dotted landscapes of Paso Robles. Flights usually last anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour and start early in the morning, out of the Paso Robles Airport, and the Rio Seco Winery. Brown encourages guests flying with her to bring a camera, comfortable shoes, a hat and someone special to experience the magic with. “I’ve been in the air well over 250 times, and have 125 pilot-in-command hours,” she said. “Starting my own business has been an adventure of its own. Since I’ve approached the Paso Robles area, everyone I have met and shared my story with has greeted me with the warmest welcome anyone could ask for. Some of these relationships introduced me to Rio Seco Winery on the East Side and Bee Rock Homestead with a gorgeous flying area on the West Side. Every day that passes for me in Paso, I feel incredibly lucky. Not only does it have the most beautiful landscapes, but it is filled with even more wonderful people. I hope to build relationships with landowners and truly respect the land. I love the area so much and I’m excited to share my joy with others!”
Brown’s background includes flights over Napa, Montana, Arizona and she has traveled working with a balloon team to 29 states in 3 months. Brown is more than prepared and experienced to safely fly her own fleet of balloons. She currently has two small balloons that hold 3 people each and she is looking forward to purchasing a bigger balloon that can hold up to 5 passengers. Some of the biggest hot air balloons Phoebe has piloted held up to 12 people, and she has gone on balloons that hold 24. She is an expert at what she does, and knows just where the wind patterns are at every altitude, using her instruments onboard to navigate the skies. According to Brown, the number of women in the United States with a commercial balloonist license is very small, and exceedingly rare, hovering just around 20. With around 250 Commercial Balloonists in the USA, it takes a certain type of person to be successful as a corporate balloon pilot. In addition to being a very safe, skilled pilot, the pilot is a master of the winds and weather.
“I’ve been working for the past year on starting this company for the fun of it. It is truly a great and gratifying experience to work as a freelance pilot. It is very fulfilling,” she expressed. Knowing how to navigate the atmosphere and with a personal record of 14,500 feet straight up, Brown takes this profession very seriously. She explained, “The air is in layers, and the different layers may be moving in different directions. So even though the pilot can’t steer the balloon, you can move up and down to a layer of air that will allow the balloon to change direction. Hot air rises and cold air sinks, and the vent at the top of the balloon releases hot air to descend.”
The first time a human considered flying inside a basket attached to a bag of hot air was on November 21, 1783. The first free flight carrying a human occurred in Paris, France. The hot air balloon was made of paper and silk, crafted by the Montgolfier brothers. The balloon carried two men, Francois Pilatrê de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis of Arlanders. They stood on a circular platform attached to the bottom of the balloon. They hand-fed the fire through openings on either side of the balloon’s skirt. The balloon reached an altitude of at least 500 feet and traveled about 5½ miles before landing safely 25 minutes later. Legend states that when they landed in the farming and vineyard area near Paris, the pilots gave bottles of champagne to the startled farmers and peasants to calm their fears of demons appearing from the heavens, but this cannot be confirmed. For more on balloonists, visit www.nationalballoonmuseum.com.
Statistically, flying in a hot air balloon is safer than driving a car, and all hot air balloons operated in the U.S. must be inspected annually or every 100 hours of flight time if operated commercially, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules. All pilots are required to complete a flight review every two years. Obtaining a license to fly a balloon includes logging at least 10 hours in flight, with at least six under the supervision of an instructor. Getting a commercial certificate includes at least 35 hours of flight time, and passing an FAA-issued written exam.
With the first manned flights of hot air balloons beginning in the 1700’s and evolving over time to what they are today, balloons can be an exhilarating form of travel, and the view of our planet on a clear day makes for excellent memories. Couples can take advantage of the majestic view and get down on one knee to profess their love with a romantic proposal, celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and experience the breathtaking scenery during the sunrise. “Sometimes you can see up to sixty miles depending on the air quality, I’m going to try and see the ocean from Paso with my guests,” shared Brown. Growing up afraid of heights, and going to college for PR and Marketing, her path abruptly took a turn after a chance encounter with a hot air balloon, and she has never looked back.
For more information, visit www.balloonsoverpaso.com.
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