Longview, Texas
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Hot Air Balloon Rides

Meet Your Pilot: Dr. Bill Bussey


"I was skiing in Aspen, Colorado and saw two Hot Air Balloons tethered on a rugby field and I just sat down in awe!" That's how Dr. Bill Bussey describes his first encounter with hot air balloons. His second came a few months later back home in Longivew, Texas when a fellow Texan from nearby Tyler had his balloon on display at a local arts festival. Bill was offered a 1/4 interest for $2,500. He quickly found another partner to buy a 1/4 interest and then figured out that with their combined $5,000 they could almost buy a brand new balloon. In the Spring of 1978 Bussey and three partners bought that new balloon. His investment was a mere $300 for a down payment and a $120 per month payment, an obligation he immediately began to meet by selling rides, in those days for just $30. My how times have changed!

Almost four decades later Bussey has logged over 3,600 hours flying time in Hot Air Balloons and he has achieved success in every niche of the sport. As a competitive pilot he has won 35 championships; has finished in the top 3 in more than 100 events; is a perrenial top 10 competitor at the US National Championships, and has represented the US in World competition three times. As a commercial pilot he maintained a long-term relationship with the Schlitz Brewing Company flying balloons that represented three of their products, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee and Stroh's. As an instructor he can count among his students his own brother Bruce who is a successful commercial, sport and competition pilot in his own right. Since 1978, the first month after he bought that first balloon, he has been selling adventure flights. He is the founder of the Great Texas Balloon Race, held anually in Longview and he is credited with the originating the twilight balloon glow - a spectator pleasing staple at almost every balloon event in the world.

Great Texas Balloon Race


Visit Dr. Bill Bussey on WikiPedia


In more recent years Bussey has turned his attention to Hot Ait Balloon World Records. His most recent attempt, SkyQuest 7 in late January, 2000 earned him his 29th US National Record and 15th World Record for distance flown and/or duration in flight. Other career ballooning highlights include:

  • 1977 - 1st balloon flight
  • 1977 - 1st balloon championship - Florida Midwinter Festival
  • 1986 - 1st World Record flight
  • 1988 - #1 ranked pilot - National Balloon Racing Association
  • 1989 - #1 ranked pilot - Balloon Federation of America
  • 1990 - Bronze Medalist - North American Balloon Championships
  • 1985, 88, 95 - Member, US World Ballooning Team
  • 1999 - Founding member/director of the North American Balloon Association
  • 2008 - Inducted into Texas Aviation Hall of Fame as only Balloonist
  • 2010 - Bob Bulluck Texas History Museum
  • 2010 - Gregg County Historical Museum


  • 1988 - "Spirit of Fiesta" Award - Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
  • 1990 - "Spirit of Ernie" Award, US National Championship
  • 1993 - National Aeronautic Association - 1 of Top 10 Most Memorable Flights
  • 1994 - Shields-Trauger Award, Balloon Federation of America for most significant balloon flight
  • 1994 - Al Desmond Award for Contribution to Competitive Ballooning
  • Guest of King Hussein of Jordan for Champion of Champions Race
  • Guest of Sultan of Malaysia for 1st balloon flights ever in Malaysia
  • Federation Aeronautic Internationale Awards: Silver Badge, Gold Badge with 2 Diamonds
  • Montgolfier Diploma - Highest International Award in Ballooning
  • Directors's Award, Balloon Federation of America
  • President's Award, Balloon Federation of America
  • Shields-Trauger Award #2
  • Hall of Fame, United States National Hot Air Balloon Museum
  • Hall of Fame, Ark-La-Tex Sports

Notable Achievements

  • Organized and flew in 1st Underground Balloon Glow and Competition, Marvel Cave, Branson, MO.
  • Host of 6 one-hour TV Specials on Ballooning for the Travel Channel and Outdoor Life Network
  • 1992 - Present - Nascar Driver for Team Texas, California Racing Experience, Skip Barber Racing Series, Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, & The Racing Experience. Have driven at 24 Nascar Tracks.
  • Fixed-Wing Pilot with Commercial/Multi-Engine Rating




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