Your Pilot

Wine Country Balloons is quite fortunate to have the most experienced balloon pilots in the region. In addition to being highly safety conscious, these certified hot air balloon flight professionals have the personality and knowledge to make sure you walk away from your ballooning experience having learned more about the sport and the local environment than you ever anticipated. Recognizing that a balloon ride should be considered “entertainment” not “transportation” these gentlemen each possess a keen sense of humor, certain to entertain you as you gently drift through the sky.   Scott van der Horst

Scott van der Horst

Scott is the chief pilot in charge of operations for Wine Country Balloons and has been flying balloons since 1972. Performing 95% of the flights for this company since 1984 he has accumulated more than 5000 hours flying hot air balloons and has personally hosted more than 30,000 passengers. He has flown balloons throughout North America, Europe and even over the rain forests of Costa Rica. He is an active flight instructor for hot air balloons and has been responsible for certifying a number of local and international pilots.
Scott van der Horst

Michael Vargas

Formally educated in aeronautical sciences at San Jose State University, Michael already had a commercial license in fixed wing aviation when he decided to become a balloon pilot. When he’s not flying he’s a full time Dad for 4 pre-teens.
Scott van der Horst

Ryan Lowenstein

Ryan is a true aviator at heart with a passion for the sky. He’s an Air Force pilot with over 2500 hours of flight time, currently flying the KC-10 refueling aircraft. While he appreciates flying in all of its forms, he got his start flying lighter than air, and has been flying balloons since he was 14, with over 13 years as a commercial pilot and flight instructor. When he’s not in the sky, Ryan loves to spend time in the mountains, whether biking through the summer heat, skiing down snow-covered peaks, or simply on foot, enjoying nature and the great outdoors!
Scott van der Horst

Erik Eaton

Erik took his first balloon ride in 1990 and was immediately hooked. He spent many years crewing and chasing for other pilots and in 2000 he completed ground school earning his private LTA license. Once he received his commercial instructor license he has been dedicated to teaching new hot air balloon pilots to help grow the sport of hot air ballooning. Erik flies his own private balloons, including a special shape ‘Honey Bear’ which he uses to participate in festivals including Albuquerqe’s Balloon Fiesta and Leon’s Festival International del Globo.