Meet the balloon pilots: Nerfer, Dark Sunrise, Big Top |

Meet the balloon pilots: Nerfer, Dark Sunrise, Big Top

Coming to the 2019 Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival

Staff report

Twenty-three pilots will man their hot air balloons high above Steamboat Springs on July 13 and 14 during the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival. Here’s a little bit about some of the balloons, and their pilots, that you can expect to see flying high.

Mike Bertetto
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Adams A55S balloon — Nerfer

Mike Bertetto’s first balloon ride was in 1978. He crewed for seven years and then moved to auto racing. In 2009, he started crewing again, and in 2015, he flew as a passenger over the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. After the flight, Bertetto purchased a balloon and started training to become a pilot. A year after becoming a private pilot, he obtained his commercial license.

Don Dougherty
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Head AX8-105 — Dark Sunrise

Don Dougherty started ballooning in 1979 at the age of 8. He has flown at events in several states including Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont and Nevada, as well as in Mexico. One of Dougherty’s fondest memories of flying balloons is when he was flying in Vermont and proposed his soul mate, Jen Dougherty.

Mark Whiting
Denver, Colorado
Aerostar S60A — Big Top

Mark Whiting has several favorite hot air balloon experiences in Steamboat Steamboat Springs, including flying in February with snow up to the basket rails and flying in June from Steamboat over Mount Werner to the valley near Walden. He also loves the ever-changing “box” winds up and back down the Yampa Valley with skimming time on Bald Eagle Lake and the Yampa River.

For more information about the festival, visit and follow the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s full coverage of the event.

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