Our Chief Pilot, Drew Egerton, is a second generation balloon pilot. From the time he was just one year old, his parents were taking him on trips across the county to help crew. Both his parents became FAA certified balloon pilots in 1988-1989 and took Drew on his first flight at only 4 years old!
After graduating from Western Carolina University with a B.S. in Engineering Technology, Drew completed his balloon pilot training, obtaining a Private Pilot Certificate in 2007 and Commercial Pilot rating in 2008. Drew flew with Asheville Hot Air Balloons from 2007 to 2010 in balloons ranging from small enough for only one person, to big enough for as many as 8 at one time!
Prior to establishing Air-Olina Aviation, Drew spent 10 years focusing on his competition flying skills, where pilots use the wind layers at different altitudes to steer the balloon to a target as accurately as possible. Drew has accumulated several championship wins including becoming a three-time champion of the Carolina BalloonFest here in Statesville! He has competed at the US National Championship six times with a best of finish of 6th in 2014 and 2015. In addition to competing, Drew has served several years on the Balloon Federation of America and Hot Air Competition Division Board of Directors, including managing the national ranking list for all balloon competitions in the US.
Drew has also contributed to the ballooning community through instructing new pilots. He has provided training for of several Statesville area pilots, including his favorite student, our Co-owner Taylor! In 2020, Drew was recognized by the National Association of Flight Instructors and The Balloon Training Academy as an Elite Balloon Instructor!
Co-owner Taylor Egerton jumped into ballooning head first in 2018 when she met Drew. She went on her first balloon ride on their first date in April and was hooked, both on him and ballooning.
After a few months of learning the ropes and becoming an expert crew chief, Taylor took the next step and began her pilot training in late 2018. In 2020, she accomplished earning her FAA Private Pilot certificate. She is currently training to obtain her Commercial Pilot rating.
When she isn't flying or chasing balloons, Taylor runs another successful business, a salon named Iridescent in Mooresville, NC.