Cincinnati/Dayton Balloon Ride Pilots

When your balloon ride experience matters.... check out Gentle Breeze Balloons!

Want to know our experience level? Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Pilots and Flight Instructors flown average close to 2 decades per each pilot and represent a combined 250 years (yes, really!) Want to measure that in Balloon Pilot Time? Over 10,000 hours total Hot Air Balloon Piloting time.... that's over one year in the sky's above Cincinnati and Dayton surrounds!

Brian Trapp

Brian began flying hot air balloons in 1980 when first introduced to the ballooning sport via his grandmothers’ balloon (she was 69 at the time) and flown in U.S., Canada, France, Scotland, England, Mexico and The Fiji Islands. Brian co-owns, operates and manages Ohio's sound hot air balloon ride company, Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company, Ltd. providing safe hot air balloon rides in Ohio including Cincinnati Ohio and Dayton Ohio. Brian continuously maintains hot-air balloon flying proficiency by flying balloons in and around Dayton Ohio as often as weather permits and never incurred any flight incidents, accidents, violations, citations. Amazingly, he has also held 90-day currency requirements, continuously since 1983. At this time, Brian piloted over 4900 lighter-than-air balloon flights, and administered over a hundred balloon flight exams/reviews.

Hot Air Ballooning highlights include:  

  • 1980 First Experience with Ballooning 
  • 1983 Earned US Private Pilot Certificate, Free Balloons, limited to balloons with airborne heater 
  • 1984 Earned US Commercial Pilot Certificate, Free Balloons, limited to balloons with airborne heater 
  • 1987 Began Repair Apprenticeship 
  • 1995 Obtained Air Agency Certificate: Hot Air Balloon Repair Station, limited airframe, balloons valid for hot-air balloon repair 
  • 2004 Appointed Designation as FAA Pilot Examiner,  
  • 2008 Ordained Minister; performing Balloon Weddings 
  • 2009 Earned Commercial Pilots License, Fiji Islands 
  • 2010 Earned Maintenance Authority, Balloons, Fiji Islands 
  • 2011 Added Airplane Single Engine Land to USA ratings 
  • 2014 Appointed to the Warren County Airport Authority Board - I68
  • 2016 Added Instrument Privileges for Airplanes to USA ratings
  • 2017 Added Commercial Airplanes to USA ratings.

Awards and Recognitions:

  • 5-time Grand Champion 1988, 1990 (with record score), 1992, 2007 and 2008 Mountaineer Balloon Fest, Morgantown, WV. 
  • Winner, 2007 Kentucky Derby Balloon Fest, Louisville, KY with the 3rd best score in its 35 year history. 
  • Finished 4th place of 1000 balloons in ALB Balloon Fiesta, October 2000, rookie year. 
  • Flown several countries, including US, Canada, France, Scotland, England, Mexico, Australia, Fiji Islands.  
  • FAA Authorized Designated Pilot Examiner, serving Southwestern Ohio, Central Ohio & Central and Southern Indiana, Eastern Missouri, Central Pennsylvania.

Laurie Givin

Laurie Givin (Senior Pilot) For Laurie, it all began when Laurie and her mother would attend the local rallies in Lancaster, PA in the early 80’s. Laurie contacted the local balloon company to crew and learn the ropes before committing to the training of becoming a pilot. This was in the fall of 1984, and by 1986, Laurie was commercially licensed with 36 logged hours. She loved to fly and she was not satisfied until purchasing her first balloon in 1988. It was a Thunder from England, and Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Co. was born. By the end of 2013, Laurie would have piloted over 1900 lighter-than-air flights. Her pilot experience ranges from a 24,000 cf Lindstrand cloud hopper to a 140 cf Aerostar passenger balloon. Highlights over the past years include working & sewing balloons in the repair shop of Jim Willauer, Lancaster PA in the early years and currently with Brian Trapp. The big plunge was taken in the year of 2003. This is when ballooning became a full time profession. In the spring of 2009, Gentle Breeze remodeled one of the hangars for a much needed larger office and now calls home at the Warren County Airport-John Lane Memorial Field. Not only flying in other states, Laurie has had the privileges of flying in other countries such as Canada, Scotland / England and the Fiji Islands. Although not a big competitor she has won 2004 & 2005 Mountaineer Balloon Fest, Morgantown WV and one of the individual races at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, Readington NJ.

Dan Keith

Dan Keith (Senior Pilot) Dan flies regularly for Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Rides featuring Cincinnati Ohio Balloon Rides. Dan's initial Hot Air Balloon Pilot training received by a nationally respected Pilot/Instructor over 3 decades ago! Dan flown Cincinnati balloon rides commercially for over 30 years and accumulated several hundreds of pilot-in-command hours. He is quick to say:  "I love hot air ballooning as much now as the day I started." Dan's balloon pilot experiences range from the smallest to the largest balloons found in Ohio. Specifically, Dayton and Cincinnati balloon rides feature the one-man balloon, as small as 25,000 cu. ft. to the largest of the large, a whopping 210,000 cu. ft. hot air balloon. Normally you will find him flying 90,000 cubic foot balloons to 210,000 behemoths. Flying never gets old as his enthusiasm is renewed by the joy in the faces of every passenger.

Enjoy your Dayton suburbs hot air balloon ride including Centerville, Miamisburg, Bellbrook, Springboro and Oakwood with our featured Ohio Balloon Ride Pilot, Dan Keith!

Patrick Hollenbeck

Patrick Hollenbeck started with Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company years ago when seeking his Lighter-Than-Air Balloon Class add-on rating to his existing Pilots license. He earned his Private then Commercial balloon piloting privileges governed by the FAA, including Ohio Balloon Flight Instructor authorizations.

Mark Wiesmann

Mark Wiesmann, FAA Commercial Pilot, Lighter Than Air. Mark's involvement in professional hot air ballooning started when Mark rode his first balloon ride as a gift from his lovely wife, Vickie. The joke amongst balloonist states that your first ride is the cheapest, and certainly found that to be true as Mark fell in love with Cincinnati hot air ballooning. Soon after, Mark purchased his first balloon, started to pursuing his hot air ballooning rated Private as well as Commercial certificates. Certified by the FAA, Mark also serves as an Instructor for Hot Air Balloons in and around the Dayton Ohio area. His passion shines as he really enjoys flying and volunteering for Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company and watching the excitement on the faces of the people encountered. Mark feels very fortunate to be able to share the sport of ballooning and the thrill of flight from an Ohio Hot Air Balloon. Come fly with us and make memories that will last for a lifetime!

Socrates Rettos

Sadly, on February 27, 2017, we lost our beloved and ace pilot, Socrates Rettos.  While a Hot Air Balloon Pilot, his primary job as Director of Print Quality at Cincinnati based Phototype outlined a profound loss for our respective organizations.  Socrates Rettos passed away after a battle with esophageal cancer. "Soc" was not only a thought leader in our industry but a passionate supporter of the print and packaging industry. He poured his heart and soul into his work, his clients and his friends and family... He is survived by his wife and his two daughters who were at his side when he passed away peacefully.

Press release found here 

Socrates Rettos – Senior Pilot, Ride Balloons.  Socrates represented one of the few pilots certified, qualified and trained to handle our largest hot air balloon, Tiny.  The rare, large-ride balloon endorsement allows him to navigate the Ohio Skies safely in southwestern Ohio’s ride-designed hot air balloon. 

Introduced to hot air ballooning around Cincinnati Ohio as a Balloon Federation of America (BFA) “Observer” in 1984, Socrates exemplifies an old cliché amongst balloon owners:  that cliché states “your first flight is usually cheap while your second flight costs you tens of thousands of dollars, because you bought one…”. Yep, he bought one. Well, technically he’s purchased at least two Cincinnati Ohio Balloons.

Residing in Ohio, Socrates first balloon purchase occurred in 1993.  He earned a hot air balloon pilot certificate with private privileges.  Though the 1990s, he upgraded his pilot certificate to commercial level pilot privileges.   Going above and beyond the federal aviation guidelines (FAA), he sought and obtained advanced training in large ride balloons. 

Large hot-air Ride-Balloon training remains optional within the United States laws, however Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company, Ltd. instills rigorous training common in other countries. In addition regular commercial hot air balloon flights in the Greater Cincinnati / Greater Dayton areas, Socrates frequently participated in balloon events across the Midwest.  He flew hot-air balloons in largest balloon event on the east coast, the QuickChek Balloon Festival in Readington, NJ as well as the largest balloon festival on the planet, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM.  Both Albuquerque and Readington, offered Socrates the invitation to navigate our large ride balloons in congested airspace with poise. 

Socrates maintained memberships in these flight related organizations: The Balloon Federation of America (BFA), the BFA Competition Division, the BFA Professional Ride Operators Division and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.