31 May 2022

Montgolfier Diploma Presentation – A Very Special Day even if CV-19 Delayed

By Kim Magee (USA)

- 17 March 2019 - While everyone below was celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I was standing in 0.1 square meters of space at 4,700 m. It was a balmy 2 degrees Celsius on the surface, but it was so cold aloft that if I forgot to put my water bottle back into the heated cooler it immediately started forming ice crystals. The perseverance paid off in the end and I landed with three new world distance records from that flight.

The records were ratified later that fall and the Balloon Federation of America, through the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), nominated me for a Montgolfier Diploma from the FAI Ballooning Commission.

The Montgolfier Diploma was created in 1960. Diplomas are awarded in three categories: outstanding performance in a gas balloon, outstanding performance in a hot air balloon, and for contribution to the development of the sport of ballooning in general.

Then the world shut down for COVID-19. I was selected by the FAI Ballooning Commission for the Montgolfier Diploma for my Hot Air Balloon flight from March 2019, but no awards ceremony on any schedules.

Finally, the world started opening up again and in December 2021 I had the opportunity to be presented the award in-person. I flew out to Washington D.C., USA where the NAA presented the diploma on behalf of the FAI during NAA Fall Awards Dinner.

The NAA Awards ceremony featured awards from all disciplines of aviation. From balloons to fighter jets, civil, commercial, and military operations. Guests were greeted to a cocktail hour followed by a five-course meal. Once dessert plates were cleared the presentations began. Each honoree gave a short speech.

With Erin Miller

I had the pleasure of being seated with a truly diverse group: Dorothy Cochrane, the curator of the national air and space museum, Erin Miller, who was able to push legislation through to grant women pilots from WWII rights to burial in the national cemetery, the aviation correspondent for CNN, and Eric Mozer, a glider pilot also receiving an international award from the FAI, the Lilienthal Gliding Medal. It was great to sit and listen to all the life adventures. There wasn't a dull moment all evening.

With Eric Mozer, President of Honour of the FAI Gliding Commission and recipient of the Lilienthal Gliding Medal

I am very honored to have earned this award. Growing up in hot air ballooning, the people on the list of previous Montgolfier Diploma winners were names I looked up to. It's very humbling to be one of only a handful of women from the USA to have received this award.

In April 2022, I had the pleasure of returning to Washington D.C., where the National Aeronautic Association chose my March 2019 flight as one of eleven Most Memorable records of the past three years. There were 234 records set in those years.

It was an awe-inspiring experience to be able to stand there and tell my story and bring light to hot air ballooning in a room filled with mostly jet pilots. They were boasting speeds of Mach 7 and above while I was happy with my average speed of 55 kts. Yet, they still seemed just as enthralled with my story as I had been with theirs.

The National Aeronautic Association does an incredible job promoting aviation and recognizing significant contributions to aviation. The fall awards ceremony and most memorable flights ceremony were first class events with honorees at the forefront. My sincerest thanks to the FAI International Ballooning Commission for the award and NAA for the incredible recognition.

COVID may have put a hold on everything, but it has made the return to in-person celebrations even sweeter. I am very honored to have been recognized for my record flight.