Ron Centers


Ron started ballooning in the spring of 1976 and has now logged more than 5,000 hours in balloons, thermal airships and airplanes, giving him the distinguished reputation as one of the country's most experienced hot air balloon pilots.  A graduate of Western Michigan University, Ron majored in Communications Arts and Sciences, is an accomplished actor and director and very well suited for dealing with the public.


He was owner / director of the first dinner theatre company in Kalamazoo and co-founder / director of the Jones Opera House in Jones, Michigan.  It was in Jones, a turn-of-the-century "theme park" that Ron got his first taste of lighter-than-air-flight.  By that summer he was operating the park's own balloon, making daily ascensions, exposing thousands of people to the park and the thrill of hot air ballooning.


Soon Ron became a corporate pilot for Sid Cutter’s World Balloon Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, piloting the Anheuser-Busch fleet of hot air balloons flying either the Budweiser, Natural Light or Busch Beer balloons.  Other clients included Black Angus Restaurants, Westinghouse Elevator Division and Parkay Margarine to name a few.


Ron's career in ballooning has taken him to many exciting and prestigious events across the country, most notably, the New York and Boston Marathons, the Super Bowl, the World's Fair in Knoxville and for three years, the Indy 500.  He was also one of forty select pilots from across the nation invited to participate in the 1980 Winter Olympics by flying his balloon over the stadium during the opening ceremonies. In March of 2001, Ron borrowed a Russian built hot air balloon and flew it over the North Pole.


In 1979 Ron was selected to test and pilot a new type aircraft - a thermal airship, designed and built for Anheuser-Busch.  He was one of four persons in the world authorized to fly these "hot air blimps" commercially.


Ron returned to Kalamazoo in the winter of 1981 and formed SKY SPORTS, INC., giving rides and lessons, sales and service in both balloons and ultralights as well as doing aerial promotions for area businesses including Kellogg's, Standard Federal Bank (formerly First Federal Savings) and PNC Bank (formerly National City Bank Corporation.)


Always of a mind to "build a better mousetrap," Ron and three business partners designed and built an ultralight balloon.  Forming a new corporation aptly named "Solo Systems, Inc." this one person "ultralight" aerostat was proven to be the most technically advanced balloon system on the market in its time.  The Solo System was introduced at the World Hot Air Balloon Championships in Battle Creek in 1985 and immediately accepted as the "Sports Car of Balloons."


As a natural growth and progression, in 1985, SKY SPORTS, INC. changed its name to MICHIGAN BALLOON CORPORATION with the delivery of a 160,000 cubic foot M!CH!GAN balloon.  This flagship of the corporation was the largest commercial balloon in the area.


In 1986, Ron was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration to be a Designated Examiner for hot air balloons issuing pilot licenses to new pilots upon their satisfactory completion of a flight exam with him.  In 1988, MICHIGAN BALLOON CORPORATION was granted a license to repair all makes and models of hot air balloons. 



(269) 327-6446

Ron - A long time ago!