Bill Hughes: A veteran hot-air balloon pilot and former Navy Pilot who has flown everything from jets to helicopters got into ballooning in the 1970s. In 1973, he helped Malcolm Forbes make a transcontinental flight across the U.S. He has flown competitively throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan, winning numerous events. The FAA designated him a Pilot Examiner and Safety Counselor. He has served as "Balloonmeister" (responsible for all the operational aspects of a balloon event) for several major balloon events achieving a perfect safety record. He also served as a vice president and board member of the Balloon Federation of America. During winter months, he travels the U.S. to teach classes to help prepare students for their FAA pilot written examinations. He has trained over 2700 pilots in 34 states.
Richard Abruzzo: A winner of the 2004 Gordon Bennett Cup with co-pilot, Carol Rymer Davis. In 1992 he and his co-pilot, Troy Bradley, became the first team to fly from North America to Africa by balloon, setting world records for duration, distance and altitude. He was also the first person to fly solo on a transcontinental flight in a gas balloon from San Diego to Atlanta in 2003, and a five-time winner of the America’s Challenge gas balloon race (1995-2004).
His awards include the Harmon Trophy (the world’s outstanding aviator, and aeronaut) in 2001, 2003, and 2005, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale De La Vaulx Medal, the Balloon Federation of America Shields-Trauger Award, and the Montgolfier Diplome. He was a member of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta board of directors and the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. His father was famed balloonist, Ben Abruzzo.
Carol Rymer Davis: She was retired from the U.S. army, and specialized in Diagnostic Radiology. She began flying hot-air balloons in1972, and being one of the first female balloon pilots in the U.S., she was the first woman to win the Gordon Bennett with Richard Abruzzo in 2004. She won world records in the AX-5 category for altitude, distance and duration with hot-air balloon (1978-1980). She has won World Ladies Cup Saga Japan (1990), Ladies champion from US National Championships (2001), and with Richard as a co-pilot, REMAX National Gas Balloon Race (2000), and America’s Challenge race (2003).
Her awards include the Montgolfier Diplome (1981, 2000), Sabiha Gokcen Medal (2005), and the Harmon Trophy (2005). She served as a Vice President, a member of Board of Directors, and Treasurer for the Balloon Federation of America. She also won 1st place in a number of skiing events, and was the youngest female to climb all 53 of Colorado's 14,000 foot plus mountains.
Director & Producer
During her childhood in Japan, this Award-winning producer/ director was inspired by the iconic book, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, written by Richard Bach.
Decades later, her first feature film, "Wind Riders," begins with the portrayal of a hot-air balloon pilot also influenced by the very same book who chose to adorn his balloon with the image of seagulls in a blue sky. Setting off to create Wind Riders, she envisioned to explore further dimensions by bridging different genres and realms of fiction, non-fiction and beyond. After graduating college in the U.S., Emi Katayama has worked professionally as a writer/ director in NYC for hundreds of news shows and television programs produced by major Japanese broadcasters.
Michael Rosen, President of August Road Entertainment, is an award-winning producer, director, and recipient of honors including five Telly Awards, The Fund's Social Justice Award, the CINE Gold Eagle, and several film festival awards. Over the last 20 years, Rosen has worked with the biggest names in the entertainment industry from Lauren Shuler Donner to Norman Lear to Matt Damon, who he recently worked again for Matt's international nonprofit, Water.org, to create award-winning original digital content that helps to raise awareness of the global water and sanitation crisis.
His feature documentary credits include "Breach" (Amazon), “When I Rise” (PBS), “Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal,” (limited theatrical release, Documentary Channel), “Running the Sahara,” (limited theatrical release, Showtime) executive produced by Matt Damon.
Ramin began his career on projects for The Getty, 20th Century Fox and UCLA before moving to NY to work as a cinematographer for Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation” – where he filmed over 500 interviews in the New York area over a period of 3 years.
As founder and president of Viceroy Films, Ramin has filmed over 100 interviews with television legends for the “Archive of American Television” (EP, Michael Rosen); producing/cinematography on numerous segments for Café Digital (Discovery), Decorating Cents (HGTV), A&E Biography (ABC); field producing/cinematography on "10 Days that Changed America" (History Channel) under the direction of Academy Award winner James Moll and the DNC Documentary program, under Academy Award winner June Beallor.
As producer, his recent work includes "My Empire" (Dir. Ted Cieselski), "The Sky Below" (Dir. Sarah Singh, "Blind Bowling" (Dir. Marc Cantone), "Visions of Mustang" (Dir. Daniel Byers), and "Breach" (Dir. Jonny Zwick) a documentary covering illegal whaling in Iceland.