98 year-old Kingsport man goes on special hot air balloon ride

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

KINGSPORT, TN - Hot air balloons painted the morning sky at fun fest in Kingsport. It made for a very special ride for 98 year-old Bob Miller. One of his bucket list items is to ride on as many different types of aircrafts as he can. So far, he's been on nine special rides. Now, he's riding on the Wellmont Health hot air balloon for his second big balloon ride and his tenth ride in a non-commercial aircraft overall.

"Bob is amazing, he's a 98 year old gentleman, he's going to be 99 in October, he's got his PHD in Organic Chemistry, he's been retired for 33 years, he's just loving life," says balloon pilot Tim Strand.

Bob has been interested in aircraft since he was a child. He even has a bucket list of different types to ride-- and he's already been on several, all over the world.

An Autogyro, which are now obsolete, a Ford Tri-motor...I paraglided in Switzerland."

He was not expecting the news that he would be able to ride in the Wellmont Health hot air balloon.

"I was totally surprised when I got an opportunity to make this flight today. I have made a flight once before in a hot air balloon, my family gave me a flight for my 80th birthday," he says.

Both Miller and Strand say hot air balloons are a lot safer than most may think.

"It's the oldest and safest form of flight," Strand says.

As the balloon went higher, the city and inhabitants below began to look small. Strand said the balloon was at about 1,000 feet at it's highest altitude.

After a gentle landing, Miller says the flight was one of his best yet.

"This was an absolutely lifetime experience. We drifted over Kingsport, we spent quite a bit of time over and above Stone drive-- I got to see it from an angle I've never seen it from before," he says.

Strand says he enjoyed flying with Bob.

"It was a lot of fun taking him flying this morning it really was...that was great, I'm so glad that we were able to share it with him," he says.

"All in all it was a terrific experience, I don't know why I got picked to do it but I'm glad I did," Miller says.

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