Ballooning community honors late hot air balloon pilot

A pilot, who has been flying at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta since 1977, died this week. Friday morning, Gary Tarter’s friends made sure to honor him in true hot air balloon pilot fashion.

It’s easy to get excited about the new balloons and pilots at fiesta, but today was about remembering one of the originals.

Tarter was a pilot who made sure each October–his home was at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta.

“Back in 1975, and I was a fairly new pilot, a guy came to me and was interested in me training him,” said David Dobel.

That guy was Tarter. A friendship was born and so was Tarter’s love for ballooning and balloon fiesta.

“It just became an annual thing.  He loved Albuquerque and he wanted to come back every year,” Dobel said.

During his favorite week of the year, tarter had a fatal heart attack.

His friends made sure his balloon would inflate one last time—an honor to a great pilot, an honor to a great friend.

“We stood around and had our final moments,” said Dobel. “We talked about some of the things we remember about Gary.  It was a fitting closing for us as pilots and friends.”

Pilots often describe flying as soaring through the heavens. They now are permanently joined by their friend Gary Tarter

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