Friday, January 11, 2008

Alaska World Balloon Challenge

This sounds like it could be lots of fun....

Hot air balloon competition planned for 2008

By Rob Stapleton
Morris News Service

Hot air ballooning could help promote winter tourism in Alaska.

Planning is under way for the 2008 annual Alaska World Balloon Challenge, to be held in February to coincide with Fur Rendezvous and the Iditarod.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 26-March 2.

Jim and Karen Rogina are working to organize the event that would bring balloon pilots from around the world to Anchorage. Jim, a balloon pilot who has logged thousands of hours worth of flight time, brainstormed the event with his wife, Karen. He said the idea came about after a long hiatus of balloon flying in Anchorage.

"It just sort of came up during a visit with world-renowned Italian balloon pilot Paolo Bonanno at an international ballooning event in Europe," Jim said. "When I mentioned an event in Alaska he said, 'Why don't we talk this over later at a private meeting?' So we did."

The Roginas hope to attract not only tourists to Anchorage, but the attention of high school students as well. Jim and Karen said they are offering a continuing education program for high-school physical science teachers in the Anchorage School District, addressing aviation history in Alaska and the physics of ballooning.

"Children really get excited about using math and science when you can put a face to it," Karen said.

Jim and Karen said their educational program is better suited for home school students and by those students who have ample time to observe the flights.

As many as 10 balloons would travel the skies from Talkeetna to Portage along the mountainous regions of Southcentral Alaska.

"The plan is to have pilots do an extensive weather briefing, submit a flight plan and then execute it," said Jim. "(Pilots) would then be judged on how well they execute their plan."

"We want to bring a world-class event here to Alaska, to promote education through meteorology and flying of the balloons, and to promote winter tourism," Karen said.

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