When Ballooning is a Family Affair
The Dave Litton Story
By Kristie Darling
Dave Litton is a natural born teacher. He’s a handsome Teddy bear type of guy who teaches first graders at Celeste Hinkel Elementary School….he’s been teaching little kids for 18 years. These days, as a commercial pilot, Dave is doing a different kind of teaching. His daughter Jenna gets hot air balloon flying lessons from him every chance she gets. “I like taking lessons with my dad because I’m so comfortable with him,” Jenna smiled. “Right now, I’m learning some of the basics, getting a feel for standing the balloon up. I’ve landed it myself, and that’s a big deal for me, but I’d be nervous flying with other pilots.” Jenna’s interest in becoming a hot air balloon pilot comes as the right next step after working with her entire family as they banded together to buy their own balloon and get Dave in the air.
When Dave and his wife Candice started thinking about becoming a balloon family, they brought all three kids with them to meet up with Charles Page and Kristie Darling looking for an instructor. Candice said, “We all sort of knew we wanted to do this, but our talk with Charles and Kristie got us serious. Charles agreed to teach Dave to fly, and I spent my time during his training teaching the kids their jobs and learning how to become crew chief. It was a fateful meeting, and I’m so glad the kids were up for it. They are all now the best crew… Abby and I fight about who’s crew chief. They’re Dave’s biggest fans!”
Almost Heaven Too
The balloon Dave flys now, a teal balloon with red and black checkers, is a real stand-out in the sky. Her name is Almost Heaven Too—guess where the Littons are from? “Flying over our college town, Morgantown, WV, was a highlight for us,” Dave says. “Flying around Statesville is wonderful and beautiful, but I have to say, flying in West Virginia is awesome!” The Littons also treasure their experience at Victory Junction, a free summer camp for children with serious illnesses. “All the pilots who tether during the camp’s carnival nights each summer feel the same—we’re all blessed to spend time with these special kids. Their smiles are infectious.”
What’s the best part about hot air ballooning for the Littons? 17-year-old Abby says she loves chasing. “I use an app called Glympse…it tracks the balloon and helps us get there when the balloon lands. I help keep Dad’s electronics organized and put them where they belong so he’s ready to fly. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know other pilots, too.”
Jenna says, “My favorite flights were Dad’s first splash and dash, just touching the water was fun. And, I got to fly a mile high after the safety seminar.” Dave took Jenna during Lifting Spirits weekend, and she got to fly the balloon with several others balloons that afternoon.
What’s best for Owen? The ten-year-old says he likes, “going out to eat after flights and hearing stories.”
For Dave, flying his balloon is all about sharing. “I let two Army rangers parachute from my balloon— that was very exciting, and I loved crewing and riding with Daniel Sasser at Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. We’ve taken our balloon several times to schools, and the kids think it’s pretty cool. Making balloon friends in Statesville and all over the country is a gift, but working as a team with my family, sharing all this fun with them, that’s the very best.”
Almost Heaven Balloon Crew