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Trump bumps hot air balloon to Pahrump

Updated April 10, 2019 - 1:03 pm

The president of the United States, it appears, was indirectly responsible for a hot air balloon landing on a south-end neighborhood in Pahrump.

The incident occurred Saturday morning, April 6, when Jonathan Wright, lead pilot of Vegas Balloon Rides, gently touched down along the 4600 block of East Paiute Blvd. just after 8 a.m.

Wright, who was joined by a dozen passengers on the flight, spoke about how the group ended up in the town of Pahrump that morning.

“Donald Trump is in Las Vegas today and any time he travels anywhere, there’s a 30-nautical mile restricted flight zone,” he said. “All of Vegas is a restricted flight area right now, and that’s our normal base of operations. We can’t fly over there, so we came over here.”

Altitude adjustment

As a result of the president’s Southern Nevada visit, Wright said he, his chase crews and the passengers drove to Petrack Park in Pahrump for the launch.

He also noted that unlike Las Vegas, Pahrump has no altitude restrictions, which allows for much more visibility while aloft.

“It’s always fun to fly in Pahrump because in Las Vegas, we can only go up to 4,000 feet above sea level, so it’s only about 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the ground,” he noted. “We had about a 20-minute ascent up to 12,000 feet, where we were doing about 20 knots. Out here in Pahrump, we don’t have any restrictions, so this morning we had beautiful views and we could see all the way over to Lake Mead, all the way out into Death Valley, from 12,000 feet and we came cruising down. It was just a gorgeous, beautiful landing.”

A ‘Bucket List’ experience

Once back on terra firma, passengers Irene and Michael Pavao from Maui, Hawaii spoke about their first hot air balloon experience on Saturday.

“The flight was absolutely beautiful,” Irene said. “We were a little terrified, but when we got up in the air it was very fun and beautiful. Today is my 60th birthday, and this was something on my bucket list that I just checked off. I even got a birthday cake, which was a very nice surprise.”

Arriving in Las Vegas from El Paso, Texas were Lysandra Chacon and Will Gomez.

The couple also spoke about their first-ever hot air balloon flight.

“It was an amazing experience,” Chacon said. “It was more than I ever could have imagined. We came to Las Vegas to celebrate my 38th birthday.”

Gomez, on the other hand, commented about the residents and the town of Pahrump.

“This is a wonderful community and everybody is so very friendly here,” he said. “Every person we ran into was very nice to us. We’re leaving Vegas to go back to El Paso Sunday evening. It was our first time in Las Vegas and it was amazing. There is just so much to see.”

The ups and downs

Wright, meanwhile, spoke about actually piloting a hot air balloon.

“You can control a hot air balloon surprisingly well,” he said. “The winds, of course, create our direction, but up and down is how we steer these balloons. There’s different wind directions and different speeds at different altitudes, so by maneuvering the balloon up and down, sometimes just even 25 or 50 feet, we can get a little bit of turning left or right and guide it in. We knew we were going to land down on the south end somewhere. Once we get down lower, it’s all about looking for a nice area to put it on where the crew can get to. It takes about 20 minutes for the chase crew to pack up, and then we will have some Mimosas and celebrate the beautiful flight.”

The kindness of strangers

Additionally, Wright spoke about his experiences in Pahrump.

“Every time I have flown here in Pahrump, I’ve been greeted by great people that are always friendly and happy to see us, after every landing, so I love it here,” he said. “I haven’t yet participated in the Pahrump Balloon Festival yet. I’m familiar with it and I would love to, but I always have to work when it comes around each year.”

Following the flight, the passengers, who received flight certificates toasted their experience with Mimosas, a mixture of orange juice and champagne.

Wright also urged anyone interested in taking a hot air balloon ride, they can learn more information by contacting Vegas Balloon Rides at 702-553-3039.

Information is also available at vegasballoonrides.com

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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