Exploring from the Skies: Meet Landon SimsStudent aviator continues to learn about the works of flying
Holding the “envelope” of the balloon up, sophomore Landon Sims and his brother assemble their own hot-air balloon at sunrise. Initially fascinated by the process it took to assemble the hot air balloon, Sims began to learn how to fly in one. “I got really attracted to it when I got to experience helping out, then getting to fly in it as the reward later on.” (Photo Credit: Landon Sims)
As his hot air balloon takes flight, sophomore Landon Sims feels as if he is in a dream. He watches down as the scenery depicts the Nevadan Mountain range from a view 1,500 feet above the ground.
“Being in the air feels like you can rule the city. You get a full 360 degree view of the entire world around you and it’s always different with every town or city,” Sims said. “It’s like being in the Wonkavator. It goes up into the sky and you’re just so astonished by the whole view around you.
Now for about a year, Sims has been on and off hot air balloons in Pahrump, Reno and Carson City.
“My mother’s friend, who was a hot-air balloon pilot, came down from Reno for the Pahrump Balloon Festival. Instead of just a ‘hello,’ and sitting down for the show later that night, she asked if we would like to help set up her balloon for the show and we decided to,” Sims said. “Being able to help that night changed my whole perspective on hot-air balloons and I have been so excited to go back and do it again every year since.”
From learning how the balloon functions to setting it up, Sims and a group of six have to build the balloon themselves before taking it up in the air.
“It takes an entire group, you can’t do it, single handedly,” he said. “You have the pilot, two people holding open the mouth of the [balloon] envelope, a person monitoring, etc.. The more crew you have, the easier the job is going to be.”
Although some may say hot-ballooning is enjoyable, it can also be dangerous due to factors such as weather conditions or altitude.
“You have to check weather conditions and make sure they’re nearly perfect, get approval from local airport control towers, check sector maps to not get in the way of other air traffic, check propane levels, altitude, other instruments, and more… You’ve got to make sure that nothing catches fire,” Sims said. “You need to get everything correct. If you make one mistake, it can all go down south from there.”
Although many people feel anxious when they’re more than a 1,000 feet above the ground, Landon has no doubt when in the air.
“The basket is so high outflow like it’s probably up to my chest, and I’m six feet. So, you can’t really fall out, unless you intentionally do so,” Sims said. “But, you just have to be careful of the instruments in there, like you’re constantly monitoring it.
Many ballooners fly as guides, pilots, or sight-seekers, but Sims has doubts that he would pursue it as a career choice. Currently, he’s looking forward to coding as a career choice, but he’ll still keep aviation as a hobby.
“I could definitely do it, I’m just really looking into other things. I want to do it more as a hobby, not as a career,” Sims said. “It takes a very long time [to become a pilot]. If you want to get a commercial pilot’s license, you have to be 18-21. You have to learn a lot of safety precautions.”
Through all the challenges he’s been presented as a student aviator, Sims said he regrets nothing.
“My proudest moment is when we get it off the ground and getting it back on the ground,” Sims said. “It’s an accomplishment to be able to set it all up and get it off the ground and then being able to get it down without messing up. It’s really difficult and when that hard work pays off, you know it’s an amazing hobby to have.”
Sims then recommended the High Sierra Balloon Camp in Reno for any new beginners looking to find a new hobby or learn how to become an aviator.
“Taking aviation is fun even though it will be chaotic. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to break things, you will doubt or even regret your decisions, but that doesn’t mean those thoughts will stick with you forever,” he said. “Aviation is exploration from the sky and it’s even a sport in some ways. You even discover beauty by looking down on the world below you. It’s an amazing thing I think everyone should try even the ones who are afraid of heights.”