The Albuquerque horizon was splattered with color as hundreds of hot air balloons painted the sky in the Land of Enchantment on Sunday, Oct. 6.

Balloonists got the green flag to launch during the early morning Mass Ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this weekend.

A Destin, Florida couple’s colorful 90,000 cubic foot Whirlaway balloon was among the hundreds of hot air balloons to launch. Pilot Jim Lynch is a retired airline captain for Delta Air Lines, and he used to fly DC -9’s, MD -88’s and more. 

“I made my living doing 600 mph, but I had all my fun doing 5 mph in the hot air balloon,” Lynch said. “When you see a balloon, you watch a balloon as long as it’s in the air. When you see an airplane, you see it and you go off, doing something else… air balloons are something beautiful to look at.” 

His wife Nancy Lynch is the balloon crew chief. She was on the ground in a chase vehicle to be there when he lands. 

They met at a tennis court in 1977. He had an airplane and she had a horse. 

“Early in our relationship we understood the other person’s passion,” she said. “I ended up learning to fly, and he bought a horse.”

The couple reunited after landing the balloon safely and watched the rest of the balloons taking over the city. The crew headed back to the Balloon Fiesta Parkway to celebrate with a bowl of chili and to do it all over the remaining days of the fiesta. 

Sharon Schischilly is a photographer for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @Schischillyy