First Person: Flying high

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Beth, front, Becky, middle, and Paul Blair take their hot air balloon out almost every weekend, weather permitting.

Early in Paul and Becky Blair’s engagement, the couple went to Roswell and took a ride in a hot air balloon. After the ride, Becky told her now-husband, “we should get one of these.” A year and a half ago, the couple brought their own hot air balloon.

Paul Blair explains how the family-oriented sport works.

Pilot’s license: I am the only active LTA (Lighter Than Air) licensed pilot in the area. That’s how a hot air balloon works. The air inside the envelope is hotter, and therefore lighter than the air outside it.

Ballooning history: I began crewing for others about 12 years ago during the original Pioneer Days Balloon Fiesta. I’ve been ballooning on and off ever since. It’s a good family sport. As a family, we wanted to get back into it and there aren’t any balloons around here, so the only way was to buy one.

Family time: It’s our relaxed family time. We get away from the stress in life. We also like to go on long drives or ride around in my 1926 Model T.

Social ballooning: We sometimes go to rallies in other towns. And it’s always families, which is what I like so much about it. It’s a family affair.

Speaking of affairs: Our balloons name is Blair’s Affair. My wife named it that because she says that if I’m ever cheating on her I’d be ballooning, not with another woman.

Even if we can’t fly: A couple years ago, we set the balloon up at Greene Acres Park during the fireworks. You can’t fly a balloon at night, but if you set it up and open the envelope and just turn on the burner, it glows like a night light. It’s called glowing.

Specs: Our balloon is 90,000 cubic feet, carries 30 gallons of propane in the gondola, and uses 27 million BTUs of heat. As a comparison, an average house of 16-18,000 square feet uses about 30,000 BTUs of heat.

About the Blairs: Paul Blair is a faculty member in Clovis Community College’s automotive technologies department. Becky Blair is a homemaker.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Liliana Castillo