Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West

Cover of Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West

On August 15, 2021 at 2:00 p.m., Gary B. Fogel will present his research leading to the book Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West. The virtual presentation will be via Zoom and available only to Albuquerque Historical Society members. AHS membership is only $25 per year. For more information and to become a member, visit our AHS Membership page.

With a reputation as the hot-air balloon capital of the world and the home to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®, the skies of the southwestern desert city of Albuquerque frequently showcase 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. His efforts also helped introduce many women to ballooning and parachuting. Sky Rider 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.

Photo of Gary B. FogelGary B. Fogel is an adjunct professor of aerospace engineering at San Diego State University and the CEO of Natural Selection, Inc., a computer science company in San Diego. He is also the author of Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West, The Torrey Pines Gliderport, and Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego. Dr. Fogel is an IEEE Fellow and Associate Fellow of the AIAA. Having established national and world records in aeromodelling, he is also a Fellow of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.