Our 2023 Pilot Lineup!

We are happy to introduce the pilots registered for the 2023 Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival. Not only do we have our local pilots, we have representation from across Alberta, BC through Ontario. We anticipate our international friends from the United States, United Kingdom, and Belgium will be able to participate again this year.

Enjoy becoming familiar with the pilots and their balloons so you'll know who is in the sky when we fly. As of July 2023, we have 29 entrants. That number may increase or decrease over the coming weeks as details are finalized. 

  • Competitor: #12

  • Pilots: Michael Lavoie

  • From: West Ossipee NH USA

  • Attended: 2022, 2023

Michael Lavoie

A Lot of Firsts

Michael Lavoie and his wife took their first balloon ride in August 1981. They missed their wedding rehearsal to skydive out of a balloon. A year and two flights later they landed in the balloon for the first time. Watching their first Albuquerque Fiesta launch in 1996 was all it took for them to buy their first balloon. They flew their first Fiesta in 2000 with their first built balloon Fudly, a 56K balloon. Michael's favourite place to fly is at GEMAB in Chambley, France. will be making his fourth trip to GEMAB in 2023.

  • Balloon: Schmedley

  • Call Letters: N101TM

  • Type: Lavoie 77K2YG

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport

Schmedley Hot Air Balloon

Family of Balloons

Schmedley, built by Michael in 2008, is one of the elders in a big family of balloons. It joined Fugly (2000) and over 13 years was followed by Cat Sass, Murray, High Anxiety and then Murray's Brother in 2021. 
  • Competitor: #13

  • Pilots: Cathy Dudgeon

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2021, 2022, 2023


Sequins of Events

Cathy Dudgeon's love of ballooning began in the 1980's but she focused on career and family until 2013 when the Festival came to High River. Cathy volunteered as a crew member and became hooked all over again. After 7 months of training, she became a licensed pilot in March 2021. She is also known for sewing mini balloons and sequined vests. You may have met Cathy at an Intro to Hot Air Ballooning or Crew Training workshop where she combines her love of teaching and ballooning. Her sights are set now on becoming a flight instructor.

  • Balloon: Maryann's Treat

  • Call Letters: C-FRMN

  • Type: Cameron O-77

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Sport


A Dream Come True

Maryann's Treat is named in honour of Cathy's mother, Maryann. With the support of friends, family and the ballooning community, Cathy used the inheritance from her mother to purchase well-used but still well-loved equipment to pursue her dream of learning to fly a balloon. Be sure to note Maryann's Treat call letters so you can identify her in the sky. She is the older twin of another balloon in the Festival.

  • Competitor: #14

  • Pilot: Jamie Kinghorn

  • From: High River AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Jamie Kinghorn


Jamie Kinghorn caught the "Firefly Bug" on his very first flight in July 1988 and began crewing the next day. Pilot training began in March 1989 and he was signed off as a pilot in May 1989. Jamie has flown in every Canadian Championship since 1992 where he was awarded Rookie of the Year. Ballooning has taken Jamie across Canada and the US as well as Belgium, Japan, and Thailand. The 2013 Heritage Inn Canadian Championship in High River inspired Jamie to continue growing the Festival in High River for years to come. 

  • Balloon: Eye of RA

  • Call Letters: C-GRAA

  • Type: Bill Whelan AX8

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport


Eye in the Sky

Eye of RA had a double-first with a first flight and first Festival appearance in 2020. Watch for The Eye in the Sky with a skirt and Firefly basket throughout this year's Festival.

  • Competitor: #15

  • Pilot: Chris Jones

  • From: Billings MT USA

  • Attended: 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023

Chris Jones

Dream Come True

Chris Jones dreamt of flying since the first flight with his grandfather piloting a fixed wing plane. His love of ballooning began in 1998 with crewing at an event. Chris became friends with another pilot and traveled around the country to crew at events for many years until receiving his pilot's license in 2017. Chris now organizes the annual balloon festival in Billings, Montana.

  • Balloon: Sapphire Sunrise

  • Call Letters: N7111G

  • Type: Raven Aerostar S55-A

  • Size (volume): 77500

  • Category: Sport

Sapphire Sunrise Hot Air Balloon

Jewel of the Skies

Sapphire Sunrise returns to High River. The blue and yellow combination will sparkle in the sky.

  • Competitor: #16

  • Pilot: Justin Elkins

  • From: Helena MT USA 

  • Attended: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022. 2023

Justin Elkins

The Family Business

Justin Elkins comes from a ballooning family. As a child, he barnstormed the world with his father, a full-time commercial pilot. Justin's first flight was at 5, his first hour flying at 14, and first took the written exam at 17. After high school grad, marriage, family and life took him in other directions. Justin restarted his training 17 years later and in 2014 received his pilot's license. He became a commercial pilot in 2017 like his grandfather, father, and brother before him. Justin's daughters travel with him and may become 4th generation pilots.

  • Balloon: Dusty

  • Call Letters: N65576

  • Type:  CBUS A120

  • Size (volume): 120000

  • Category: Sport

Dusty Hot Air Balloon

Dusty in the Wind

Dusty is the kind of dust you don't mind hanging around, especially floating by in the sky.

  • Competitor: #17

  • Pilot: Garry Lockyer

  • From: Oliver BC

  • Attended: 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023


The Official Pilot

Garry Lockyer has logged 1700 hours in the air since becoming a hot air balloon pilot in 1978. A competitive flyer, he has flown in several Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships, crowned Canadian Champion in 1986, as well as North American and World Hot Air Balloon Championships. Garry also contributes to the sport as a competition official, officiating and being the Event Director at numerous events nationally and internationally across the years. For many years he represented Canada on the world governing body FAI.

  • Balloon: Cotton Candy

  • Call Letters: C-GSOK

  • Type: Ultramagic Z-90

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Sport


Eye Candy

Cotton Candy's bright colours and distinctive chevron pattern will be easy to spot in the sky.

  • Competitor: #18

  • Pilot: Del Michaud

  • From: Calgary AB

  • Attended: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023

Del Michaud0

Mountain Man

Del Michaud is just shy of his piloting golden anniversary of piloting having received his license in 1974. He has competed in several Canadian Balloon Championships and is a former Canadian Balloon Champion. Del's skills are known on the world stage as well. He has flown internationally in 15 countries and represented Canada at 6 World Balloon Championships. Two of Del's most unique ballooning experiences have been flying in the Canadian Rockies and the Swiss Alps.

  • Balloon: Duke of Earle

  • Call Letters: C-GTEI

  • Type: Cameron  N-105

  • Size (volume): 105000

  • Category: Sport

Duke of Earl hot air balloon
  • Competitor: #19

  • Pilots: Bill Whelan & Sandra Rolfe Whelan

  • From: Vankleek Hill ON

  • Attended: 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

Sandra Rolfe Whelan and Bill Whelan


Bill Whelan and Sandra Rolfe Whelan are a long time balloonist and life duo who recently married. Bill has been involved in balloon aviation for 40 years and Sandra for 30 years. Sandra is a renowned extreme balloonist, holding 57 Canadian and 3 world records. With Bill in charge of transportation and moral support, Sandra is breaking new records after a devastating stroke in 2015. Told she would never walk or talk again, today Sandra can walk, talk, drive, and fly using accessible devices. Sandra and Bill spread the message Aphasia is a loss of words, not intellect.

  • Balloon: Aphasia Word Warrior

  • Call Letters: C-GXHF

  • Type: Bill Whelan AX7

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Special Shape

Aphasia Hot Air Balloon

Balloon with a Mission

Aphasia Word Warrior is a special balloon built from the heart. Their mission is to raise awareness that APHASIA… is A LOSS OF WORDS… NOT INTELLECT. Designed by a 15 year old in 15 minutes on an iPhone, Aphasia was built without the aid of a computer. Aphasia Word Warrior AX 7 used 1000yds, 900M with all the extra for the face guard and head gear.

  • Competitor: #20

  • Pilot: Brigitte "Brie" Johnstone

  • From: Manotick ON

  • Attended: 2021, 2022, 2023

Brigitte Johnstone

Happened One Christmas

Brigette "Brie" Johnstone was bitten by the ballooning bug after being gifted a  champagne flight for Christmas. She purchased a balloon, hired an instructor, and became a pilot in 1992. Brie is actively involved in the National Capital Balloon Club as well as the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival where she is on the Board of Directors and a pilot for the Gatineau team. When not flying, Brie is a physiotherapist working with children with disabilities in the community schools. 

  • Balloon: LOFNI

  • Call Letters: C-FAFS

  • Type: Bill Whelan AX7

  • Size (volume): 77000

  • Category: Special Shape

L of Knee hot air balloon illustration
  • Competitor: #21

  • Pilot: Paul Burrows

  • From: Bristol North Somerset UK

  • Attended: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023


The Special Shapes Guy

Paul has been flying balloons since 1991. Currently specializing in flying special shapes he also has experience flying passenger rides in the UK and aerial advertising across the globe. Currently working as managing director of Lighter Than Air Ltd, Paul also has experience organizing both hot air balloon events and air shows around the world. When not flying Paul enjoys working on the family farm in the small village of Nempnett, Thrubwell.

  • Balloon: Busby the King's Guard

  • Call Letters: G-POMP

  • Type: Cameron

  • Size (volume): 117000

  • Category: Special Shape

Busby guardsman hot air balloon
  • Competitor: #22

  • Pilot: Simon Wrighton

  • From: St Brelade Jersey UK

  • Attended: 2019, 2023

Simon Wrighton
  • Balloon: Buster the Bulldog

  • Call Letters: G-OPAW

  • Type: Cameron Z105

  • Size (volume): 105000

  • Category: Special Shape

Buster the Bulldog hot air balloon
  • Competitor: #23

  • Pilot: Claire Monk

  • From: Meare Sommerset UK

  • Attended: 2023

Claire Monk

Global Pilot

Claire Monk learned to fly hot air balloons by husband Chris. They have flown together worldwide at different events including the US, Europe and Asia. Claire's most memorable flights include a flight across the English Channel from England to France, flying from the chateaux in the wine regions in France, and at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

  • Balloon: Dyno The Dinosaur

  • Call Letters: G-DYNO

  • Type: Cameron

  • Size (volume): 90000

  • Category: Special Shape

Dyno the Dinosaur hot air balloon


Dyno is one of a kind! He's happiest when he's out and about, sharing his smile with everyone.

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