Autumn Aloft brings dozens of hot air balloons over Park City for spectators to enjoy. For one family, it’s not just a spectacle—it’s a job.
Tim Taylor is the pilot. Daren Dee-Taylor is the crew chief. And their daughter, Mari, is basically the first mate. Together, along with a crew of six or more people, they safely send a big, red, white and blue balloon into the air and land it on the ground as the Dee III Balloon Team.
Tim loves flying balloons, in part, because his connection to them started with a celebration of his and Daren’s love.
“I got married in a balloon 31 years ago, bought the balloon I got married in and have been flying every since," Tim said. "It’s amazing.”
That ride on their wedding was Tim’s first time in a hot air balloon but not Daren’s. She was crewing for another balloon pilot at the time. As crew chief for the family’s balloon—the year-old Dee IV, which replaced a balloon Tim had flown for 22 years and 900 hours—Daren has an important role on the ground.
“It's a lot of work, actually, setting everything up," Daren said. "Then, you chase them. They call us the chase crew--we go where he goes, so that when he comes down, where they're normally we don't really have very high wind landings here, but you can have a higher wind landing.”
Balloons are basic; hot air rises and sends them into the air. But the skill required to fly it is much different from an airplane. Tim has his pilot’s license and had a goal of becoming a Navy pilot. He says flying a plane is just like driving a car—you get in, start the engine and go. Ballooning, though—that’s a challenge.
“Balloon piloting, you actually have to be a pilot. Everything I do is in lower atmosphere; everything I do takes skill and precision flying," Tim said. "So it doesn't have speed, but it does have a lot of precision, a lot of little nuances that you learn over the years.”
Tim is the weather officer for Park City’s Autumn Aloft event, which means he’s keeping tabs on weather and atmospheric conditions to make sure all the ballooners are safe. The Dee III Balloon Team has flown all the Autumn Aloft festivals. Tim says he enjoys the view.
“The bowl is beautiful," Tim said. "Flying up here, I mean, look back at that. Look how stunningly beautiful that is. That’s worth it.”
Tim, Daren and the rest of the Dee III Balloon Team are based out of Salt Lake City and participate in balloon festivals all around the state and regionally.