Government Proposed 'User Fees'

Jan 25, 2012 ~ Robbie Wahl

From the BFA dated 01/25/2011.

Dear Members:

Many of you may have read online or heard talk of the proposed flight operation user fees the Obama Administration has in their current budget-deficit reduction plan. For those of you who have not, in short, the proposal is for a $100 per flight user fee for those utilizing ATC services. This is really not targeted at us. However, the definitions are ambiguous and at this time the only aircraft listed as exempt are Military aircraft, public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights. It is obviously geared towards business jets and airlines, but because of the lack of excluding balloons, gliders, electric aircraft, and ultralights there is a need for concern. Remember, even Class E airspace is controlled airspace! This proposal was not written by the aviation community, rather by a group of well-meaning Washington number crunchers with limited or no knowledge of U.S. airspace and the aircraft operating within it. As one eloquent aviation enthusiast put it, ''they don't know the cockpit from the tail of an airplane.''

As the BFA board, we are working closely with the FAA, AOPA, and NAA to monitor the progression of this proposal. It is important to note that Congress has rejected this proposal twice previously and implementation in an election year would be unlikely.

The proposal is embedded in the White House document, ''Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future. The President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.'' dtd September 19, 2011. Here is the proposal:

More equitably share payments for air traffic services. Roughly two-thirds of the air traffic control system's current costs are financed by aviation excise taxes. Most of the tax revenue is collected through ticket taxes, segment fees, international head taxes, and fuel taxes. General aviation users currently pay a fuel tax, but this revenue does not cover their fair-share-use of air traffic services. All flights that use controlled air space require a similar level of air traffic services. However, commercial and general aviation can pay very different aviation fees for those same air traffic services. For example, a large commercial aircraft would pay between $1,300 to $2,000 in taxes for a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco while a corporate jet flying the same route and using the same Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic services would pay about $60 in taxes. To reduce the deficit and more equitably share the cost of air traffic services across the aviation user community, the Administration proposes to establish new mandatory surcharge for air traffic services. This proposal would create a $100 per flight fee, payable to the FAA, by aviation operators who fly in controlled airspace. Military aircraft, public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights would be exempted. The revenues generated by the surcharge would be deposited into the Airport And Airway Trust Fund. This fee would generate an estimated $11 billion over 10 years. Assuming the enactment of the fee, total charges collected from aviation users would finance roughly three fourths of airport investments and air traffic control system costs.

While the BFA is working with other aviation agencies, we encourage balloonists to educate themselves on the issue. In the mean time, a petition has been posted to the White House asking the Obama Administration to specifically exempt gliders, balloons, electric aircraft, and ultralights from the $100 per flight user fee at

We encourage those inclined to visit the website and sign the petition.

The BFA board is actively looking at and working on this subject. Rather than separating ourselves as an organization from General Aviation, it is important to stand with the other General Aviation organizations including AOPA, EAA, NAA and others in support of NO USERS FEES FOR GENERAL AVIATION. We invite you to continue to research this subject and work with members of the General Aviation caucus to bring this to successful closure.

Your BFA board will continue to communicate with you, our members, as we progress.

Thank you for your support.

Troy Bradley
BFA President

Reregistration of Aircraft: Important information for all aircraft owners

Jan 06, 2011 ~ Robbie Wahl

Any aircraft owner whose aircraft registration certificate was issued in March of any year will expire March 31, 2011. You have until January 31, 2011 to re-register your aircraft on line. After January 31, 2011 applications and fees must be mailed to the registry. The next deadline is the end of February for registrations dated April, and so forth through the year.

Go the the following link to get details of how to reregister your aircraft:

FAA Re-Registration Website

Re-posted on behalf of the BFA by Robbie Wahl

March 8, 2010 - The Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots

Mar 04, 2010 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

Hello everyone!

March 8 is the Centennial of Licensed Women Pilots. The first woman worldwide to receive a pilot certificate was a French balloonist named Raymonde de Laroche. On Monday, March 8, women all over the world will be attempting to set a record for the most women pilots introducing a woman/girl to flight on that day. Another record is for the most taken during the week of March 6-12. Visit to enter and become part of the record.

I encourage all women balloonists to take part in this as we were the first! Try and invite some of your local media and let's promote not only women pilots but also our wonderful sport of ballooning!

Here is a link featuring Terri Donner, mother of Nick and Chase, as well as woman aviator in her own right, doing just a sample of what she does to promote women in aviation. Video

Let's turn that sky pink!

Debby Standefer
CLTA Texas

Reposted by Cahty D. Wahl

Mississippi Balloonnists Dan Martindale Passes Away

Feb 24, 2010 ~ Mark Daniel

The ballooning community has lost a great friend and balloon pilot. Dr. Daniel Martindale went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 6:15 a.m. Please keep his wife Susan and their children in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

Services are incomplete at this time, when we get more information we will pass this on to you. Dr. Dan did not wish to have flowers, but to send the money to the Relay for Life or Monticello United Methodist Church.

Dan was a regular at local and southeast balloon rally's in his balloon 'Happy Teeth' and will be missed.

2010 'Cheap Seats' Safety Seminar

Feb 17, 2010 ~ Robbie Wahl

The Annual Heart of Dixie Balloon Club "Cheap Seats" Safety Seminar will be held Saturday February 20th, 2010 at Wahl Supply in Decatur, AL and will begin promptly at 8:00am.

We have a great lineup of speakers for this year's BFA approved seminar. Including: Art Thrash speaking about Long Jump Flying; Brad Parker about emergency response and first aid; David Nadler from the National Weather Service; Dave Sullivan speaking about Balloon Accidents and Pilot Decision Making; Mike Wahl speaking about trailer safety; John Griffin from Schantz Insurance agency, and finally Robbie Wahl leading a discussion on maintenance and Repair.

Please bring a check for $30.00, your BFA card, and a chair to sit in and the rest will be provided!

First Villa Rica, Georgia rally

Aug 09, 2009 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

Tim Billingsly and Dave Sullivan and a host of Villa Rica folks pulled together the first West Georgia Hot Air Balloon Festival in Villa Rica, Ga. Fourteen pilots, many members of the HODBC, participated.

Great job, guys, and we look forward to next year's event!

2009 Safety Seminar

Jan 05, 2009 ~ Robbie Wahl

The Annual Heart of Dixie Balloon Club "Cheap Seats" Safety Seminar will be held Saturday February 28th, 2009 at Wahl Supply in Decatur, AL and will begin promptly at 8:00am.

We have a great lineup of speakers for this year's BFA approved 'back to basics' Safety Seminar.  Please bring a check for $30.00, your BFA card, and a chair to sit in and the rest will be provided!

Amusing parody

Oct 08, 2008 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

The Crew Prayer

The winds have welcomed you with fastness.
The sun has cursed you with its cold glare.
You have flown so far and so fast
Your crew will never find you,
And they wrecked your truck
And drank all your beer.

Cullman Balloonist and Wife Pass Away Plane Accident

Jul 14, 2008 ~ Robbie Wahl

March 12, 2008 Philip Clemmons and his wife Pat were killed in a plane crash in Morgan County, Ohio. Philip and Pat lived part time in Canada for business and in the last few years Philip, a fixed wing pilot, had been flying them back and forth between Montreal and Cullman.

Philip joined the ballooning community close to a decade ago when he began taking lessons with Mike Wahl of Decatur and later purchased the system he learned on from Wahl. Since then he had become a well respected and outspoken supporter and lover of the sport and an intragal part of the ballooning community. Phillip and Pat were also very active int the Cullman community. Pat often helped in the planning of several area festivals, and Phillip was and active member of the Cullman Area Animal Welfare Association and highly involved in the American Cancer Society; having survived both larynx cancer and lung cancer. Philip was awarded the Life Inspiration Award from the American Cancer Society in 2001.

Philip and Pat are survived by a son, LTC Philip B. (Noelle) Clemmons, U.S. Army; two daughters, Nancy Clemmons (Steve) Moore and Katherine Clemmons (John) Sakolosky; his stepmother, Nell Clemmons; four brothers, Terry (Judy) Clemmons, Hank (Janine) Clemmons, Tim (Carol) Clemmons and Dr. Samuel (Shannon) Clemmons; two sisters, Dr. Linda Clemons (Chris) Barnes and Jane (Pete) Misegades; and six grandchildren.

Balloonist Dr. Norman 'Doc' Cohen Passes Away

Apr 12, 2008 ~ Robbie Wahl

Dr. Norman "Doc" Cohen, 80, of Louisville, died Monday, February 25, 2008. He was an allergist who practiced in Louisville, Kentucky for many years. He was a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Greater Louisville Medical Society, Phi Delta Epilson Medical Society, Kosair Temple, Scottish Rite, Bowling Green Lodge #73 F & AM, and the Balloon Society of Kentucky.

He is survived by his daughters: Karyn Harden, Lori Hall, Terri Baker, Wendy Sue Cohen, and Nancy Wasserman; his sister, Mirian Rae Schulman; his beloved friend, Frances Cross; niece, Katie Greenfield; and nephew, Sammy Schulman.

Doc was in the first Jubilee, pulled his balloon trailer with a big late-model Cadillac, but loved to pinch pennies. For years his constant companion was a dog he "adopted" on a trip through Decatur. He was an original and will be sorely missed by his family and extended ballooning family alike. Keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

BFA Members Message

Apr 12, 2008 ~ Robbie Wahl

Dear BFA Member,

The last few years have been a period of tremendous change for the BFA, and indeed for ballooning in general.

Our sport has seen gradual decline, followed by a sharp downturn immediately after 9-11.  However, for the last few years we have seen some renewed growth in ballooning.  While we are still seeing a ‘graying’ of our sport, I am pleased to say many areas are reporting new participants, and we are seeing new events start to spring up around the country.  Like many activities, our sport is cyclical to some degree.

Likewise, the BFA is seeing growth in its membership – particularly with the pilot population (crew and family memberships remaining stable).  As our membership changes, and as technology advances, the way we do business has changed too.  Thanks to a number of dedicated volunteers, we have spent considerable effort restructuring the website, paving the way for future expansion.

In this technology age, certain products like ‘Skylines’ have fallen by the wayside and been replaced by other more immediate channels of communication – such as the BFA website.  I am pleased to announce that one key element of our communication system is finally in place – user subscribed email.  While conventional email would have been far quicker to implement, we felt it important to allow each of you to unsubscribe from mailing lists that don’t interest you.  We have created several mailing lists, some of which you have been automatically subscribed to. For example there is one for all members, one for each region, and additional lists for Hot Air Competition Division, Gas Division, Junior Balloonists, and Balloon Clubs, etc. The messages you receive via these lists will contain instructions for unsubscribing.

We look forward to keeping in much more frequent contact with you, so that late-breaking news or important issues can be addressed in real-time.

However, I need your help. Currently about 1,400 members have submitted their email address via the BFA website. You are receiving this message because you have taken the time to fill out your member-profile, but many members have not.  Please encourage your friends and fellow members to take the 2 or 3 minutes needed to complete their member-profile.  The more complete our mailing list, the more able we are to communicate with and respond to our membership. A word about privacy: rest assured that the BFA will not sell, lease or otherwise distribute your contact information to other organizations.

Lastly, I would like to publicly thank all of the volunteers who have spent countless hours planning and preparing for next week’s BFA Convention in Louisville.  Organizing such an event is a mammoth task, made bigger by the fact that it is the first National Convention in 15 years.  With nearly 450 attendees registered and over 40 speakers on the agenda, it promises to be an exciting and memorable event.  If you are planning to attend I congratulate you, I’m sure it will be time well-spent.  Whether you are able to attend or not, I hope you will join me in thanking the many committee members for volunteering their time, energy, and talents to make this event a success.

I look forward to seeing you next week and talking with you in the near future.

Andrew Baird


Jan 12, 2008 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

Bob Boswell will be in Decatur the weekend of Feb. 23, 2008, to perform annuals. If you would like to schedule your balloon for an annual at that time, please contact Mike Wahl at 256-355-4303 or 256-350-6983, or e-mail

HODBC Annual Safety Seminar

Jan 12, 2008 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

HODBC's annual Cheap Seats Balloon Safety Seminar will take place Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008, at Wahl Supply, Inc. 935 Old Trinity Road, Decatur, Alabama.

This one-day seminar-on-the-cheap is held in a barely-heated warehouse. Bring your own chair (we're not kidding!) and dress warmly. Speakers will include FAA DE David Sullivan, Nashville pilot Lou Bottiggi and more to be announced. Watch this space for more info soon!

Minimum Safe Altitudes FAA Rule Change

Dec 26, 2007 ~ Robbie Wahl
bfa logo

The recently issued FAA NPRM #FAA-2007-29291 has created an undue sense of urgency in recent days regarding balloonists’ long-hoped-for revision of FAR 91.119 – minimum safe altitudes. In fact, this NPRM is not intended to address that issue. This is a routine NPRM that allows the FAA to seek public comment on FARs they feel are unnecessary or have a negative economic impact. Indeed this NPRM might be likened to a simple “Suggestion Box.” Its purpose is to bring attention to issues the public feels need review that are not already under consideration by the FAA. It does not warrant a massive letter writing campaign to revise 91.119.

In fact, the BFA/Quad A petition to revise FAR 91.119 is already under serious review with a NPRM pending. Following a one-year study that included the gathering and analysis of GPS- supported altitude data, the FAA agreed with our premise that balloons need to be able to operate at altitudes lower than current minimums for optimum safety. In effect, they agreed to the need to revise 91.119. At that time, the project was put on hold for lack of FAA budgetary funds to proceed with the NPRM process. However, this past July the BFA received notice from the FAA that the decision was made to "commit agency resources to complete the project. Again in effect, the FAA now has agreed to issue a NPRM to revise 91.119. This does not guarantee a change. It merely means the FAA will (eventually) issue our proposed revision for public comment in the form of a NPRM. It remains for the FAA to assign a priority for this rule-making effort, draft the NPRM, review it, and then publish the NPRM. That is the NPRM we so anxiously await and that will be the time for supporting comments.

No timetable was promised for the completion of this project and we know the FAA regulatory process does not move quickly. However, you can be certain the BFA leadership is monitoring our 91.119 petition and will immediately announce the release of this important NPRM and issue a timely call for your support.

Andy Baird
President, BFA

Albuquerque 2007

Nov 08, 2007 ~ William Davis

My wife and I went to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year for the first time. This was only our second time to go to any ballooning event, we went to Helen, Ga back in June for their event. I thought the Helen event was great, getting to see all of those balloons in one place (about 20 balloons attended), wow, was I in for a surprise in Albuquerque.

We got in around 10:30 in Albuquerque and got checked in and in bed around 11:30, set the alarm for 4:00am (Note: lots of coffee needed to get going). We met the our pilot and his wife at their hotel at 5:00 and headed off to the field. We were going to crew for the Lynches who we met in Helen. It was still dark when we arrived so I couldn't tell just how big the field was or how many people were there.

After a quick trip to the crew tent for breakfast and more coffee, off to the pilot's briefing with Mr. Lynch. There were a few announcements, weather-briefing, and prizes given out to pilots for various things. There were a couple of pilots that got called to the tower after the briefing for doing "no's no's" as it was put. Then off to our launch site C3. The dawn patrol had lifted off and was flying the box over the field as we were getting things ready to unload. The sun started to come up over the mountains to the east of the city and cast a little light around and I could start to see how large the field was and how many balloons were there. We got the truck turned around to unload the balloon. We slid the basket off the lift gate, unloaded the envelope, fuel lines hooked up, basket to envelope connected and started cold inflation. Then Jim fired up the burners to fill the envelope.

That's when I noticed things around the field, balloons were everywhere, in front of us as far as we could see. There were over 700 balloons there, not counting the special shapes. WOW, the sight was incredible, all of the colors and not two balloons the same. Balloons were in the air, some waiting to lift off, others just starting to cold inflate. It was something to see so many balloons all around us, and I thought the event at Helen was great. Mr Lynch lifted off with his passengers and we rushed to get everything loaded back on the truck to start the chase. With so many balloons and chase crews traffic moved slow, or it seemed so. We finally got to were the balloon landed after trying to figure out the road map and how to get to were it landed. We got the balloon packed back into the truck and off back to the field for toasting and tailgating. Each day it was the same routine, flying in the morning and night glows in the evening.

I got to take my first ride on Thursday and my wife got to fly on Sunday. I got a chance to learn some things about balloons and ballooning which was one of the reasons for going. One of the things I learned was that I know I do not want a special shape balloon. One night I got to help with the night glow on "Miss Daisy". It took over an hour to pack "Miss Daisy" back up, it was easy to inflate but not any fun to deflate. I got to fill up the propane tanks, which I have never done before (got to bleed that pressure off the filler hose before attempting to undo that hose adapter). Friday turned out to be my big day. Mr Lynch got the truck turned in the right direction to unload, hopped out and unlatched the lift gate and turned to me and said "your in charge". So there I was in charge of getting the balloon unloaded and cold inflated for Mr Lynch to fire up the burners, I had a blast.

We are making plans to go again next year, you can't go just once. This coming year I hope to be able to help crew at events closer to home. If anybody in the Birmingham area needs someone to help crew for a flight,let me know, I'm in.


Club Balloon

Sep 25, 2007 ~ Robert Grimes

Any members interested in forming a Balloon Club Balloon. Shares could be divided up for 2 to 10 members. If interested in attending a organizational meeting, contact:

Bob Grimes:


Alabama Jubilee 2007

Jun 04, 2007 ~ Mark Daniel

Well, another great Jubilee weekend has come and gone in Decatur. I have participated as a pilot the last two years and crewed for the three years prior to that. Other than the occasional weather issue, each time has been a blast. This year the weather was just about perfect and balloons were able to fly each scheduled flight. My crew and I chose to fly both mornings and stay back and tether/glow each evening. As expected, the lines were long and we ran out of fuel before we ran out of waiting passengers. To save some for the glow, we always limit it to kids only when I get down to my last tank of fuel and everyone still in line seemed to understand. At least my wife Pam didn't report any grumbling from her post at the head of the line. (She has the tough job). It was amazing how many people sincerely thanked us (meaning all the balloons on the field) for providing free tether rides.

As in prior years, we made some great new friends among the other pilots and crews. For us Decatur is always a highlight because we get to see so many of the balloon pilots and crews we have met over the years. In addition, it's a great place to fly. Lots of open space and with as many LTA pilots as there are in Decatur, the land owners are accustomed to seeing balloons and are really friendly about us landing on their property. At least the ones I've encountered.

Of course one of the big coups for 2007 was snagging the Energizer "Hot Hare Balloon". That is one big bunny. My only complaint was that every time the bunny was inflated, I was in my own basket either flying or tethering and couldn't get over to get a really close look. I finally sent my daughter to grab another pilot friend of mine to come fly my Sunday night tethers long enough for me to go see it. (Thanks again Karen). I got there just as the Hare pilot (Glo) was bringing it down for the last time so I got a good look up inside and had a few minutes to talk to her.

As for the event organizers, once again they did a great job. There are a lot of experienced pilots there and they have a lot of depth on the bench so they can rotate the big job of Balloonmeister. Hats off to this year's chief pilot, Ken Garner. From my vantage point the rally went off with no hitches. I know there are a lot of other people that work on this event. It's just from my perspective as a pilot, the balloon related activities are the ones I most identify with. I can only imagine how much work goes in to putting on something like this. Many thanks to everyone involved, most of which were introduced to us on Monday morning. And for those of you that didn't make the awards breakfast on Monday, you missed it. Art Thrash should consider a second career as a stand up comic after his presentation of the bone head award. The whole room was screaming.

I guess to sum up is to say the only bad part about Jubilee is when it's over. Have to wait another whole year.

Soft Landings,

Mark Daniel
Pilot  - Bama Breeze

Decatur Readies Itself for 30th Annual Alabama Jubilee

May 14, 2007 ~ Robbie Wahl

As the month of May begins to approach its end, southeastern pilots are scrambling to get themselves current for the upcoming annul Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, hosted annually in Decatur, Alabama. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the annual race. Founded in 1977 the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic is the oldest hot-air balloon race in the southeast.

Starting as a friendly competition between 17 balloonists from Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana, the Jubilee now draws over 60 pilots from 20 states, and yet remains one of the most pilot and spectator friendly races in the country. Many pilots and crew have agreed that they enjoy and appreciate the low stress, laid-back, friendly atmosphere that the Jubilee provides, which keeps them coming back year after year.

Alabama Has A New Pilot

Mar 18, 2007 ~ Cathy D. Wahl

Alabama has a new pilot, and a second generation one at that: Michael Robert (Robbie) Wahl Jr. of Birmingham, son of pilots Mike and Cathy Wahl of Decatur, earned his private pilot's license Sunday, March 18. Designated Examiner Dave Sullivan of Atlanta graciously and patiently stuck around to wait out windy, overcast conditions to get the flight in.

Welcome to the Heart of Dixie Balloon Club Website

Feb 17, 2007 ~ Robbie Wahl

Welcome one and all to the Heart of Dixie Balloon Club Website! We've been working hard to bring this new and valuable resource to life for the past few months, and while we are not completely done with it we are well on our way to realizing the dream of having a central information source for pilots, crew, and interested individuals for ballooning in the state of Alabama. Please have a look around and let us know what you think. While we are still working on completing the site we do have many sections outlined. If you feel you could provide valuable input please don't hesitate to let us know!

About The Club


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