Tom Lattin, a professional hot air balloon pilot, says his experience above the ground has taught him more about his faith.
Q: How were you introduced to the sport of ballooning?
I met a guy in a residential landscaping class who was a crew member for a local balloonist in Greenville and I asked if I could watch. I started helping other pilots and now, 26 years later, Ive got my own balloon.
Q: What did you study in college?
Small business management and entrepreneurship at ECU.
Q: What is your job now?
M ob is advertising and promotions. I started flying for Remax in 1992. I handle pilots, scheduling, and make sure the balloon equipment meets the standards of the FAA. I take people up on 3 to 5 minute tethered flights. Remax has 120 hot air balloons. We go up from 25-40 ft.
Q: What does your wife do? Do you have children?
My wife is a professional violinist. We have two children, one is 14 months old, and the other one is four.
Q: So you both have alternative careers, did you ever worry about how youd make money with those jobs?
Were kind of weird. We dont have traditional jobs at all. Were both self-employed. Weve got to hustle to make money, its not like there is a paycheck coming in every week. My wife has played with the Transiberian Orchestra, the Moody Blues, and she does a lot of weddings. Shes the expert musician and Im more of the expert in FAA.
Q: Is she a pilot too?
Shes always loved ballooning. If shes not playing the violin or viola, she comes to help. I always like her to have at least the basic knowledge of whats going on in case something happened to me. God forbid, in case I passed out from a heat stroke or something, she could help secure the balloon safely. When she can be with me its great.
Q: Do you like your job?
Ballooning can sound glamourous in some ways. Theres still life on the road, eating at a lot of fast food restaurants. Its a lot of hours and its a lot of hard work. I cant punch the clock when I leave work. Its pretty much a 7 day a week job.
Q: Where would you like to travel with the balloon?
Id love to go back to France. That was some of the most beautiful flying Ive ever done. Id love to fly in Canada. Id like to go to New Mexico again. I kind of enjoy also being in the Carolinas all the time.
Q: When do you fly your personal balloon?
I take my balloon up to Victory Junction kids camp in the summer. I took a girl up once who had a mouth and ears. Shes never had eyes or a nose. She was missing a lot of her face and she was born that way. When you go up, you can kind of hear that people are below you. Being able to experience it through her was neat. When we take all these kids up, one week it might be cancer, spine disorders, different disabilities. Sharing the balloon with the kids is just amazing. Its not a paid gig. Its a volunteer thing. They go through far more than other people deal with on a regular day. If you think youre having a hard day, then you see life is not that bad no matter what is thrown at you. You can always make something good out of it.
Q: Are you religious?
My wife and I are both Christians. My mom had her doctorate in theology from Princeton. Faith was important to her and to our family.
Q: What role do you think your faith plays in your job?
Im working with nature all the time. The things you see in nature, you know theres a higher power controlling a lot of the stuff. I know where Im at as far as my faith. I know where Im going after this world and Im comfortable with that. Its nice knowing I have someone watching out over me. Its important to have that connection. In a lot of ways, I think our society is losing the Judeo-Christian morals and practices with the way we treat people, and the respect, its not the same. I also think parents are not as involved with their kids lives as much as they used to be.
Q: Do you study the weather?
I did an internship in Meteorology in college. I love weather. Im a closet weather geek. I have to do forecasting for my job. Im a HAM radio operator. A lot of my friends call me to get the forecast before they call anywhere else. Im very specific about the forecast because I have to be.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you live by?
Work hard, play hard, and serve others. Im a true believer that were all responsible for helping our fellow human beings. When people are in trouble, its the local community, individuals, and churches who should come out and help. Its not always the government who should help.
Q: Any other philosophies?
I believe you dont give an award for just trying. There are winners and losers in life. If you dont teach that, youre going to have people who fail. Not everybody is a winner every time. People who give achievement awards for halfway trying arent teaching the kids anything.