Our Pilots - The Best in the Industry | Balloons Above the Valley

Our Pilots

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Trained, Experienced, World Class Pilots Providing Hot Air Balloon Rides in Napa Valley

Bob Barbarick

Bob Barbarick

Captain

Captain Bob Barbarick is the ‘last man standing ~> and still piloting hot air balloons rides Napa Valley. Bob is of the original pioneers of hot air ballooning in the United States !   Yes ! As far as we know, he is the last pioneer of hot air ballooning in the USA still flying !

He began ballooning in the early 70s right here in Napa Valley, flying with his fellow balloonist enthusiasts and eventually flying the growing numbers of people that would gather around upon their landing and yes, call out: “We want to go up !“

So, they began taking some of these many people Up !  And, the rest is history, as Bob formed Balloons Above the Valley in 1977 and the company has grown to flying over 10,000 people per year for many years now.

Bob has logged over 7000 flight hours in his career and continues to provide hot air balloon rides in Napa Valley to our passengers today.  It is his vision and passion for the aeronautical adventure of ballooning that has made hot air ballooning one of the top 3 most chosen activities by visitors to the Napa Valley, and made ballooning and balloon images one of the most enduring icons of Napa Valley.

So, Bob extends to you his welcoming invite :  Come Fly with Us !

Russ James

Russ James

Pilot

Interested in things that fly from an early age he learned to fly balloons for the recreational aspect but soon became addicted to the challenges that face balloon pilots every day. Raised in the rural central valley of California, this self-proclaimed “hick-from-the-sticks” has been flying for over 25 plus years with over 20 years in Napa Valley.

He is a longtime flight instructor and often shares his passion for safety at pilot safety seminars. Russ can guarentee that his hot air balloon rides in Napa Valley will leave you in awe. Russ’ family includes over a dozen other balloon pilots scattered from coast to coast. There is never “nothing” to talk about at family gatherings. When not flying Russ keeps up the family farm, raising rice and cattle.

Chad Cassell

Chad Cassell

Pilot

Chad grew up in Pennsylvania and was raised in a ballooning family so his flying began when he was a young boy. His career as a commercial hot air balloon pilot as taken him to many parts of the country that include flying in not only Chester Springs, PA but Driggs, ID and Phoenix, AZ before joining out team here in Napa. 

Chad is an instructor in hot air balloons and works hard volunteering his time to the Balloon Federation of America Youth Camp committee.

Jon Radoski

Jon Radoski

Pilot

Jon Radowski, the owner and chief pilot of Apex Balloons, has been involved in ballooning essentially his entire life. His interest took off at the age of two when attending a balloon festival with his family. Jon knew from a very early age that he would become a balloon pilot as soon as he grew old enough. After the magic of his first flight, he began his piloting journey at the age of 14 and made ballooning his full-time career by 19.

Jon now has more than 20 years of experience flying hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes. For years, he commanded one of the world’s very tallest hot air balloons, the Space Shuttle Patriot. Towering at a height of nearly 190 feet and with a wingspan of 115 feet, the shuttle balloon is three times taller than most balloons and twice as wide! Jon has flown some of the largest passenger balloons in North America, corporate balloons, and numerous special shapes. In addition to balloons, Jon also flies hot air airships, blimps, gliders, airplanes, and powered paragliders, and he is also a skydiver. He has flown in over 22 different states as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Switzerland and India. He has a natural skill at flying balloons and takes considerable pride in his unblemished safety record, with thousands of happy passengers flown without a single injury.

Jon’s careful attention to detail, consideration for the enjoyment of guests, skill at controlling the balloon, and commitment to safety will ensure that you have a most incredible flight that will be remembered forever.

Come fly with us!

It’s time to embark on a truly memorable adventure!