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Pellissippi festival to have Mayflower balloon

Kevin Knapp has a fear of heights, and he’s not alone; acrophobia is one of the top 10 fears.

Unlike most people, though, Knapp faces his fear head-on — by climbing into a rattan basket, or gondola, attached to a hot air balloon and letting it go where the wind takes him. And for him, it’s not just a hobby; it’s a paying job.

As pilot of Mayflower Transit’s hot air balloon, Knapp flies his “ship” at dozens of charitable and promotional events, including Pellissippi State Technical Community College’s balloon festival Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29. 

“I am absolutely thrilled that the Pellissippi State’s Hot Air Balloon Festival is part of Mayflower’s ballooning season. It’s a great aviation event,” Knapp said. “Festival-goers are in for a treat with the majestic colors and graceful movement of the hot air balloons creating quite a beautiful sight in the Tennessee sky.”

The Mayflower balloon is made of nylon and sports a bright green, yellow and red design with three Mayflower ship inflatable appendages that give it a special shape.

“The ship extends out two feet on three sides, so it creates a three-dimensional look,” Knapp, a native of Kansas, said.

The propane heats the balloon (or envelope), and vertical movement is controlled by temperature.

“But the direction of the flight is completely dependent upon prevailing wind current,” he added. “The weather is critical to every decision a pilot makes.”

Knapp said he is proud of his perfect safety record — not one injury since he got his first taste of balloon flight back in 1989.

Knapp is virtually a one-man show, with no ground crew of his own. The local Mayflower agent, Volunteer Moving and Storage of Knoxville, provides his crew and passengers.

At Pellissippi State’s balloon festival, Knapp and the other pilots will rely on volunteers from the community to help out. 

“A balloon pilot can choose his takeoff point, but the landing site is not as precise,” the Kent State graduate said. “I like to find a clear spot, preferably close to a road, so the chase crew can bring the van in close.”

“It just doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

More information is available by visiting or calling 865-694-6528.


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