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Balloon Facts & Team Information

 

Thanks for stopping by for a visit. As long as you’re here, there’s one thing I’d like to share with you right a way.  The official name of the Mickey Mouse hot air balloon is actually “Happiest Balloon On Earth” despite the fact that it is so often called “Ear Force One” (mostly by other balloonists).

“Ear Force One” is our radio call sign only when the boss (Mickey) is actually on board the balloon, at all other times it is called “Happiest Balloon on Earth”.  

How’s that for some great trivia !

Let’s answer some of your most frequent questions …

Q : How big is “Happiest Balloon On Earth” ?
A : The balloon is approximately 113,000 cubic feet in volume. A good analogy would be, “If we turned Mickey upside-down, it would take about 113,000 basketballs to fill him up”. The “Ears” are about 8,000 cubic feet each.
 
Q : Where was the balloon built ?
A : The balloon was built in February of 2006 by Cameron Balloons in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and shipped to Lighter Than Air America in March.
 
Q : How many Mickey Balloons have been constructed ?
A :

This balloon is the third “Mickey” to be constructed by our friends at Cameron. Balloon. The others were built in 1988 and 1993. This one is the biggest of all.

Just so YOU know, there was actually another Mickey built in 1990 that featured Mickey wearing a Birthday Hat. That balloon was called “Birthday Mickey”. Sadly, the fabric failed early in its life (through no fault of the builder) and it was retired quickly.

Here is a special, never before seen treat for you …

Disney Ballooning schematic

This is the actual Cameron factory graphic used during the pre-
construction phase of “Happiest Balloon on Earth”

Q : When did the balloon make its first flight ?
A :

The “Happiest Balloon On Earth” first took air and left the earth on the morning of March 22, 2006, in Pendleton, Oregon, at Wildhorse Resort. The flight lasted a little better than an hour and was captured on video from the ground and a following helicopter.
           
Four pre-tour test flights were planned, but bad weather forced the team to settle on one flight. After that flight, the balloon and team moved immediately to stop one on the tour, Tucson, Arizona.

Scott & Laurie Spencer were the pilots for that flight and each flight since. (with only a single inflation having been missed by Laurie in the life of the balloon)

   
Q : Tell me about the Grand Canyon Flight.
A :

The Grand Canyon flight operation was conducted on April 11, 2006, at 11:33 a.m. from a location called “Quartermaster” at Grand Canyon West, about 110 miles outside Las Vegas.

The team waited for weather for two days before getting the successful inflation and short hop. Helicopters were used to bring the equipment to a bluff in the Canyon about 4,600’ below Quartermaster and about 600’ above the Colorado River.

Though several pilots have overflown the Grand Canyon and a few even dropped below the rim, this flight operation was a “first” from the Canyon floor and would not have been possible from the location without the extensive use of helicopters.

Scott Spencer piloted the balloon assisted by Co-Pilot Bob Martinez. (making Martinez the only other pilot to ever operate the balloon in free-flight) A select Lighter Than Air America ground crew was on-hand to tackle the logistics of the flight operation.

   
Q : Where is the “Gold Ear” Mickey balloon ?
A :

The “Happiest Balloon On Earth” was purpose built for its 14-stop tour during the 50th Anniversary celebration at Disneyland. This design was unique to previous incarnations of the famous balloon because Mickey appeared wearing the same “Golden Souvenir Cap” that guests could purchase while visiting the park.

After the last stop on the tour, July 17, 2006, at Disneyland (the 51st Birthday of that park) the balloon was returned to Cameron Balloons for removal of the souvenir Gold Cap, a project we called “Back to Black”. Additional black fabric was ordered when the balloon was first built so that the black colors would match as closely as possible.
   
Q : Where is the balloon’s “Golden Cap” now ?
A : The gold “Souvenir Cap” that Mickey wore on the “HBOE” balloon tour is treated as a very special Disney artifact and is also kept at the Boise warehouse of Lighter Than Air America.
   
Q : How is the balloon transported to venues ?
A : That depends on the location but usually in an LTAA pick-up and trailer. We are always prepared to ship the balloon system via truck or aircraft to any location in the world that Mickey wants to visit.
   
Q : How will the balloon be used in the future ?
A :

A flight made by “Happiest Balloon on Earth” is always a very special and unique occasion. Going into the future the balloon will always be kept in “Ready For Flight” condition but you shouldn’t expect to see the balloon often.

The balloon will be used for the promotion of the Disney Theme Parks on a global basis, as when and if it is requested for very special “Disney” occasions.

As one of the most popular balloon designs in the history of the sport and as the world’s best known character, many invitations are received for the balloon to visit local festivals and balloon rallies. Those invitations are reviewed by LTAA and potential visit locations are then forwarded to Disney for consideration.

           

Mickey Balloon sketches

The Original Disney “Blueprint” for “Happiest Balloon On Earth”

Q :

We are frequently asked (seriously, all the time) what happened to the Disney “Castle in the Sky” balloon ?

A :

The Orlando based flight Team retired the balloon and it currently resides in a Disney warehouse at Disney World. While it would still hold air it is doubtful that it is airworthy and would ever fly again.

Parts are removed prior to “mothballing” so it would require a great deal of maintenance prior to ever appearing again.

Castle in the Sky Balloon

Saying Thanks To An Incredible Team

I’d love to have all the visitors to this page learn about the wonderful people we get to work with at the Walt Disney Company. Alas, that isn’t possible, but I will say this :

“These young people are exciting to be around, have vast knowledge of their business and are hard working dedicated individuals. They seem to love challenges as much as breathing and having the opportunity to work side by side with them is the most rewarding task I’ve had in my adult/professional life.

To a person, their personalities will warm your heart and make you feel like you’ve been best friends for a lifetime. Laurie and I cherish the all too brief moment in time spent during the 50th Anniversary Balloon Tour when our family was allowed to become part of their family, and we lived and worked together for three months.

Working with these humans is an experience I will brag about forever”.

                                                                                                            Scott Spencer

In no particular order, look at these faces …

Lisa - Disney Help

Disney strip of characters
Disney Strip of Characters
Disney Strip of Characters
Disney Strip of Characters
Disney Strip of Characters

Mickey Mouse

Boss, you already know, we’ll follow you anywhere …

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