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A Vision Quest in Albuquerque, NM

posted Jun 2, 2014, 12:19 PM by Ben Noyce   [ updated Jun 4, 2014, 9:32 AM ]

A 'Bucket List' is usually activities you want to achieve before you die, but not for one 9-year old Dallas boy.  Ben Pierce has a different kind of bucket list; seeing the Northern Lights, seeing the Parthenon in Greece, seeing the Grand Canyon, seeing the Lincoln Memorial and White House, and seeing Albuquerque because of the Weird Al Song, and so many more sites around the world.  This list has a common theme that most of us take for granted; seeing.


Ben is going blind, his eyesight been damaged when he was born just 9 years earlier.  After he and his family received the news that his eyesight had changed so dramatically, they immediately began Ben's wish list.  Where did he want to go, what did he want to see, and most important, what did he want to experience before he lost his sight for good.  Therefore, the Vision Quest began.


Ben and his family found their way to Albuquerque, NM simply made aware by a song from Weird Al. Wanting to see the great Southwest city and posting it on his list, fans of the list quickly enacted a plan.  What better way to see the city and the high desert landscape but from a bird’s eye view, up in the sky.  And just how do we do that here in Albuquerque?  By Hot Air Balloon of course!


Captain Al Lowenstein of the 811th LBJ School Squadron (LBJ Coyotes) heard of the family and of Ben's list and quickly volunteered his time and balloon for the mission.  Cadets of the Coyote Squadron also volunteered their time and expertise as ground and chase crew for Capt Lowenstein's Vision Quest mission.  At 6:00 Saturday morning, May 31, 2014, Ben was treated to a tour of Albuquerque from the sky.


The skies were shared by many other balloons that morning, several of which belonging to local clubs as well as home of the upcoming Civil Air Patrol Ballooning Program.  New Mexico is the 'Unofficial' home of Hot Air Ballooning, as you can see anywhere from a couple to a couple dozen balloons on the horizon each morning.  Home of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta held each year during the first part of October, balloonists come from all over the world to see as well as participate in the almost 2 weeklong event, launching anywhere from 500 to 800 balloons every morning.


New Mexico Civil Air Patrol Wing has been pushing the resurrection of the CAP Ballooning Program for the past year to establish a third means of Aerospace Education and Orientation Flights, as well as hands on training in Chase Crew and ground crew operations.  Cadets and Seniors alike are able to participate in the Chase Crew Academy to learn the basic fundamentals of Hot Air Ballooning and put it to practical use during Balloon Orientation flights, CAP advertisement campaigns, and during rallies where crew hands are always in need.  An average size balloon can use anywhere from five to eight crewmembers and a special shape balloon can use an excess of 12 or more.  Aerobelle the Cow Balloon, the largest special shape in the world, requires a minimum of 16 crewmembers just to inflate.


Captain Lowenstein and the members of the 811th Coyote Squadron played an instrumental part of Ben's flight that Saturday morning, trained and ready to accomplish and carry out a humanitarian flight for a family and person so desperate in their quest of memorable visions.

Ben and his family continue their quest to see as many places and experience as many activities before the inevitable happens.  To see more reports on Ben's flight as well as his other vision quests; please visit the Albuquerque's new station site by visiting and


If you would like to get more information on the Balloon Academy, please visit the New Mexico Group 800 Site for upcoming events and training dates at