On hot air balloon rides in Zachary, passengers see the capital region from above

During hot air balloon rides in Zachary, passengers see the capital region from above – [225]

Chad Hebert likes watch people’s faces as they fly in a hot air balloon for the first time.

“That moment when you first cross the tree line going up in altitude and see the fear leave their face and the excitement set in – there’s nothing quite like it,” he says.

Hot air ballooning is a long-standing tradition in the Hébert family. Every weekend at Really Hot Air Balloon Adventures, three generations of the family and their friends take the riders through the air. In bright yellow balloons, they soar into a clear, golden sky above Zachary.

“There is no such thing.” — Chad Hebert, Zachary’s Really Hot Air Balloon Adventures

Flights depart at sunrise and last 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the winds. As the sun rises above the horizon, cyclists can see the homes of Zachary’s neighborhoods below, like tiny dots among the green trees and fields of the area.

Once safely back on the ground, guests are treated to a brief history of the balloon, complete with a celebratory glass of champagne.

For the staff, it’s hard work as a team. The group helps set up the gondola, inflate the envelope, track the balloon through the sky, and communicate with the pilots via two-way radio. A successful hot air balloon flight is highly dependent on the weather. Ground winds are expected to be less than 6 miles per hour with no rain, fog or fast winds in the forecast.

Once the ball begins to land, the crew works to catch the basket and accommodate the ground runners.

But all the effort is worth the reward.

A Family Affair: Three generations of Really Hot Air Balloon Adventures family adventures, including Chad Hebert, Randon Hebert, Shawnel Hebert and Shawn Krause.

“I love it when the runners land and I can see their faces. It’s my favorite part knowing it’s something I love to do, and I can share it with dozens of people,” says Shawnel Hebert.

The art of hot air ballooning has been a family hobby that has been a business for four generations.

Really Hot Air Balloon Adventures began in the 1980s, when Phillip Branstuder, a retired Army National Guard helicopter pilot, visited a hot air balloon festival in Baton Rouge and discovered a new way to fly. .

“(My father-in-law) did several tours in Vietnam, and when he got out of the army, he realized that helicopters were expensive to buy, to operate and to maintain,” says Shawn Krause, who is now a pilot with Really Hot Air. Hot air balloon adventures. “You couldn’t do it on the salary of a retired army officer. So when he visited the US National Balloon Festival, he said to himself that it was not a helicopter, but has been a way to get it back in flight.

Take-off: After positioning the gondola and inflating the envelope, the balloon is ready to fly. Down below, personnel track the balloon across the sky, staying in constant communication with the pilot via two-way radio.

Branstuder’s granddaughter, Shawnel Hebert, remembers traveling to different balloon festivals as a child after Branstuder bought his first balloon in the 1990s. Shawnel says it was a family hobby which they all practiced growing up. But as they got older, extracurricular activities took over and hot air ballooning took over the back seat.

In 2012, after a ten-year hiatus, Shawnel, her brother, and her husband, Chad, met some balloon friends at the Pennington Balloon Festival in Baton Rouge. They asked Krause if they could get the old gear out and get back in the air.

“Dad said if the equipment was good and passed its inspection, then we would fly again,” Shawnel said.

In 2013, the family recertified their equipment and purchased and designed a new custom ball. Krause began teaching his son and son-in-law how to fly. Eventually, the two earned their private pilot licenses.

Chad went further by obtaining his commercial pilot’s license. This allowed him and his father-in-law to take passengers on revenue flights.

Just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the family began advertising rides to people in the Zachary area.

“In 2019 it felt like a Pandora’s box opened up and we started booking left and right. Now, on average, we stay booked for months at a time,” says Shawnel.

“My dream is to finally be able to teach my kids not just to fly, but to be responsible pilots and one day pass it on to them, just like my stepfather did to me,” Chad says.

Now the family patriarch, Krause says that even though he’s older and has grandchildren, he’s not done flying yet. He has a responsibility to the hot air balloon community.

“I want to do my part to bring the next driver up,” he says. “We are currently on a plateau. We need more of us in the air.

This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of 225 magazine.