Hot Air Balloonists Marc And Ursula Klinger Share Their Favorite Spot to Fly Around Statesville
By Kristie Darling
Several of Statesville’s hot air balloon pilots are transplants from other parts of the country. Marc and Ursula Klinger are a couple of those pilots—they landed here some years ago and stayed for the fun.
“One of Marc’s employees, Mike Simmons, was a balloon pilot,” Ursula remembers. “On our third wedding anniversary, Marc surprised me with a balloon flight with him—one of many amazing moments in our life.” The couple started crewing and chasing Mike’s balloon pretty regularly. They travelled to out-of-town events and fell in love with the sport and the people. After six months of doing that, they bought their own balloon. Ursula, being not too shy, started her flight training right away, and after she earned her private license, Marc followed suit. And another ballooning family takes off!
They are a product of the people
Both Ursula and Marc learned to fly in South Florida in the early 1990s. “We had some damn good instructors available to us there,” she told me, “Mike Simmons, of course, and Barry Rowars, Sam Nettles, Wayne Smith, Chuck Rohr—all well-respected pilots and really great people.” Marc explained that everyone has a flying style, and his is a bit of a mash-up of the tips and techniques learned from all his instructors. “I probably even learned a thing or two from Ursula, actually,” he said with a smile. These days, after Ursula retired from piloting a couple years ago, Marc keeps his balloon in the air flying passengers, competing a bit, and fun flying with family and friends. Airtime Balloon Company is based in Troutman, though Marc flies all over Iredell County.
There is something special about home
In fact, flying all over has been part of the fun for the Klingers. “Ballooning can take you to many amazing places. I’ve flown lots of hours in Florida, of course, and in Canada, Albuquerque, central Mexico, all over North Carolina, and many locations in between,” Marc shared. “Lots of people ask what is my favorite place to fly? I really believe my own back yard, right here in Iredell County, finishes number one.”
Along with fun places to fly are fun people to fly. “Savvy Shields, who was the reigning Miss America, loved her flight,” Ursula said.
“I think it was a relaxing getaway from all her responsibilities. She was great fun to be with—other pilots were a bit jealous, I think, that Marc got to spend quality time with her. And we took Sergio Joachim, (nicknamed Sergio Suave), pro football wide receiver, and stuntman in The Dark Knight,” “We had such a good time with Sergio that he ended up surprising me by showing up in Albuquerque on a dare!”
All this, and much more, equal safe flying.” Marc has chaired the Carolinas Balloon Association’s annual safety seminar on eight occasions. “We bring together pilots, crew, and the most knowledgeable instructions from all over the country for continuing education,” he continued. “There’s lots of satisfaction knowing your efforts help grow the sport and keep safety foremost in everyone’s mind and skill-set.”
Putting smiles on the faces of everyone
For the Klingers, ballooning is one part flying and lots of parts friends, family, travel, community, and sharing with first timers or experienced flyers. These experiences are common threads that put smiles on the faces of everyone it touches. Oh, and don’t forget eating out and telling tales with everyone after a flight!
Core Beliefs? An engineer by education, Marc thinks of this, “There are no problems, only solutions.” Not sure who told me that, but it serves me well whenever I leave the ground.