Log

Fiesta del Globo — Chihuahua, Mexico

Dec 23 by Ed Poccia
Paramotor pilots truly enjoy the hospitality and festive atmosphere south of the border.

The sound of the phone ringing was nothing unusual. Michelle Daniele, proprietor of Paramotor City West in Albuquerque, New Mexico, often fields calls from pilots in need of parts, wing inspections or repair. But the growing smile on her face could only mean that either Brad Pitt wanted flying lessons or someone was inviting pilots to fly someplace special.

On the other end of the phone was Jose’ Munoz, asking if Michelle could put together a group of powered paraglider pilots to come down to Chihuahua, Mexico to participate in their city’s FIESTA DEL GLOBO. The event was developed to enhance the city’s position as a tourist destination and provide a recreational opportunity for the city’s residence during the first week of November.

The Fiesta, celebrated for the past three years, is part Hot Air Balloon Rally, Carnival, Music Concert and Food Court. Essentially, a BIG PARTY and boy, do they know how to throw a party. Jose’, as a Fiesta sponsor, put him in the position to suggest that powered paragliders (PPG) become part of the celebration.

Seven members of the Route 66 Flyers, a New Mexico based PPG/PPC club were able to make the trip. After a visit to the Mexican Consulate to receive a permit to drive their vehicles into Mexico, they purchased Mexican auto insurance, grabbed their passport, and drove to the U.S./Mexican border near El Paso where they met up with Jose’. He served as an escort to Chihuahua; a clean, modern city of about one million people with many new buildings and well cared-for homes.

After checking into the hotel, a recently constructed City Express, a modern six-story hotel with amenities similar to those found in many U.S. establishments, we were off to the pilot’s meeting held at the Holiday Inn Express. The briefing served to inform us that we were essentially flying in the middle of a city of almost 1,000,000 people, with strict altitude and air corridor limitations and few emergency landing options. The plan was for us to launch, fly to the festival and circle the grounds providing spectacle to the scene while the hot air balloons got into the air. After the briefing, a meet and greet with Fiesta del Globo sponsors, friendly hot air balloon pilots & crews, was conducted poolside with live music and an incredible buffet.

One Route 66er, Jeff Martin, gave an impromptu salsa dance lesson, which along with a tequila concoction got the party started.

Another PPG pilot, Kirt Sellinger, who speaks fluent Spanish, demonstrated his PPG launch technique to some of the pretty girls at the party. At least, that’s what he said he was doing.

The next morning, Jose’ met us at our hotel at 5:45 AM and directed us to the field we would use as a launch site and LZ during the Fiesta. The field was a large area adjacent to the University of Chihuahua about ½ mile from the Fiesta grounds, which held the hot air balloon launch site, carnival, food venues and stage for the live entertainment.

The field used by the PPGers, had an elevation of 4,800 feet above sea level and was strewn with rocks and debris. Launching in calm winds that first day was difficult but certainly not the worst conditions the flyers had ever faced. Jose’ deemed the field’s surface to be unacceptable and after the 1st flying session had a road grader brought in to clear the area.

Three days of calm winds and clear skies assured us of a great weekend. Typically, after launching, the PPG pilots would climb out to view a cityscape, not usually seen from a PPG. Traffic clogged highways, clover leafs, housing developments, and commercial buildings were the vistas available. The festively decorated carnival grounds with thousands of spectators, the ability to fly among more than forty hot air balloons, and the generous hospitality we received created a most joyous atmosphere. Great care was taken while flying among the hot air balloon behemoths and our flying skills and safety mindedness served us well. Jerry Daniele acted as launch director that first day and Denzil Thompson, paramotor mechanic to the stars, made sure that we all got in plenty of air-time.

During one flight, Michelle Daniele and Bob, “Bubba” Peters chose to land at the south end of the Fiesta parking lot adjacent to the fair grounds. They were immediately swarmed by hundreds of onlookers. One little boy insisted that “Bubba” was in reality a “Power Ranger” and could not be dissuaded.

On another occasion during the weekend, Jeff Martin had engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing. A police vehicle pulled up right away and before Jeff could imagine what it would be like to spend a night in a Mexican jail, the officer assured him that he was there to help in any way he could. Jeff made the necessary adjustment to his equipment while the policeman cleared the crowd to create a runway and allow Jeff to retake to the sky.

On different occasions, the PPG pilots flying the border of the carnival grounds, formed up to fly in a four-stack formation, which provided additional spectacle to the festive scene. One could tell by the frantic waving they received from spectators, the number of people pointing cameras at them, and the fact that they were stopping traffic on the highway, that they were making an impression.

On countless occasions, the generosity and hospitality extended to the pilots was wonderful. The entire experience should serve as a model for municipalities considering such an event.

The organizers of the Feista del Globo, the sponsors, and the city’s officials have every reason to be proud of their efforts in creating such a successful event. The Route 66 Flyers were happy to have been allowed to participate in the Fiesta and enjoy the hospitality of the city of Chihuahua and its people.

 

Ed Poccia enjoys some time aloft with the balloons.


© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!