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Gary B. Fogel

May 6, 2022

Sky Rider

Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West

University of New Mexico Press 2021

With a reputation as the hot-air balloon capital of the world and the home of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the southwestern desert city of Albuquerque frequently showcases the magic and adventure of ballooning. This legacy links back to the 1880s and a man by the name of Park Van Tassel. Through his pioneering flight, Van Tassel not only opened the skies to future generations across New Mexico, but he also opened minds to the possibility of manned flight throughout the American West.

A charismatic, P. T. Barnum–like showman, Van Tassel rose from obscurity to introduce the new science of ballooning and parachuting throughout the West. Van Tassel toured extensively—from California to Utah, Colorado, and Louisiana and later embarking on an international journey that took him to Hawaii, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and beyond. Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West (U New Mexico Press, 2021) weaves together the many threads of Van Tassel’s extraordinary life journey, situating him at last in his rightful place among the prominent aerial exhibitionists of his time.

Gary B. Fogel is an adjunct professor of aerospace engineering at San Diego State University and the CEO of Natural Selection, Inc. He is also the author or coauthor of Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego.

Troy A. Hallsell is the 341st Missile Wing Historian at Malmstrom AFB, MT. The ideas expressed in this podcast do not represent the 341st Missile Wing, United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense.

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Troy A. Hallsell is the 341st Missile Wing Historian at Malmstrom AFB, Montana.
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