Hot Air Balloon Pilot Takes Flight in Charlottesville

May 12, 2014

While many in people in Richmond took time to remember the three people killed in a hot air balloon crash on Friday, one balloon pilot took to the skies over Charlottesville Monday morning to honor his friend who died in the accident.

Rick Behr of Boar's Head Balloonin has been soaring through the skies for 40 years. While taking groups to see Charlottesville in a hot air balloon is Behr's passion, he says safety it his number one priority.

"I've flown 3,500 times here in Charlottesville and we've never had an incident, which is wonderful. It has nothing to do with skill; it just has to do with saying no. If the weather is not right, we just do not fly," Behr said.

The biggest factor is the wind, which steers the balloon. According to Behr, balloonist can't launch in more than winds that are five or six miles per hour.

"You have complete control of the up and down movement with a balloon, but you have to go with the wind," said Behr.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, balloon crashes have killed 114 people in 67 incidents in the United States since 1964.

Three people killed on Friday, after their balloon struck a power line and burst into flames.

Behr knew the pilot, Dan Kirk. Behr says Kirk was devoted to the people he took flying.

"What happened was a freak accident, very very very rare. It has hit me in my very heart, and it has every balloonist in the world that takes people up on something that is supposed to be a 100 percent joyful experience," Behr said.

Today Rick went back into the skies, thinking of his friend and spreading joy to a new group of people. Anne Griffin went up in a balloon for the first time. She said floating over Charlottesville was like a dream.

"It was just like sailing it was so quiet. It was a beautiful way to travel. You could see every detail; feel the breeze, this balloon holding you up. I thought it was gorgeous," said Griffin.

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