You may have seen a hot air balloon passing over Weyburn and the surrounding area lately.
It turns out that the person flying this balloon is the only certified hot air balloon pilot in all of southeast Saskatchewan.
Her name is Sharon Elliott and she lives right here in Weyburn. She wanted to be an airplane pilot originally, so she got her license and became a certified fixed wing airplane pilot in 2011. She then later realized that ballooning was her passion, so she took the course and became a certified hot air balloon pilot in 2012.
She was trained under a pilot from Alberta named Dale Lang that she considers to be one of the best in Canada. He then sold her one of his balloons after she completed her training and she has been flying recreationally as often as possible since then.
Elliott has become quite passionate about hot air ballooning and has been to a number of ballooning events as well.
"We went to Billings, Montana a couple weeks ago and flew in a ballooning event there with 12 other balloons," said Elliott. "We're going to Alberta in September to a couple events where we will join the ballooning community there. I attend these events because it's learning opportunity, I can meet with other pilots, I can fly in different areas and I can expand my skills."
Unfortunately it isn't as easy to go ballooning as it is to hop in your car and drive. A dedicated team is required for the take off and landing of each flight.
"It takes four of us to get it launched and then four of us on the other end to pack it all up and put it away," said Elliott. "It's a group activity, I need to do it with other people. I can't do it all alone."
She says that this summer has been quite good for flying so far.
"Weather in the summer is often unstable and it usually gets better in the fall, but this year hasn't been bad. There have been enough days to get some flights in for sure," said Elliott.
Hot air balloons float because the air trapped inside the balloon is heated up by a burner, making it less dense than the air outside. There are only a few opportune times of the day for hot air ballooning as it relies on air temperature and pressure.
"We only fly early in the morning or in the evening," said Elliott. "So just around sunrise till three hours after sunrise is our flying window. After that, with the heating of the Earth there will be some activity and more movement in the air that I don't want to get into."
Elliott truly enjoys hot air ballooning and says that the feeling is incredible when you leave the Earth.
"It's literally like floating on air, it's very surreal. On a calm day you just gently lift off of the Earth. You can't even tell that you're leaving the Earth, really the ground leaves you. Then you float gently over the city or the crops. It's really nice because I can go low just over the trees or float along the Souris River. One great part of it is called contour flying where you follow the landscape. The wind is in control and you just let it take you where it decides as you can only control the elevation," said Elliott.
She said that she has occasionally taken people up with her, but most of the time she flies solo. The more weight in the basket, the shorter the flight will be.
Elliott said she would love to see more people take up hot air ballooning in Saskatchewan as she very much enjoys flying with other balloons in the sky.