Zack Griego

“What I love most about hot air ballooning is the feeling of floating through the air, where for an hour, nothing else matters.”

- Zack Griego

Hello! My name is Zack Griego, and I’m thrilled to be living my dream as a hot air balloon pilot. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I bring energy, wholehearted enthusiasm, and a love for adventure to every flight. Before discovering my ultimate passion for ballooning, I competed on the world stage in BMX racing. Now, I thrive on meeting new people and forging lasting friendships while sharing the magic of ballooning.

Journey into Ballooning

My ballooning journey began in diapers, crewing for a local pilot with my family. We’ve attended every Balloon Fiesta since I was a year old, and I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of floating through the air and seeing the world from a new perspective. My passion for aviation was evident from a young age—I even made my mom buy me every Lego plane in existence!

My first balloon flight at age 10 with my stepdad was a transformative experience, and from that moment on, I never wanted my feet to touch the ground again. Inspired by my stepdad and grandfather, both pilots, I saw ballooning as a way to honor their legacy and bond over a shared love for flying. For the past four years, I’ve watched my stepdad fly every day, deepening my passion for ballooning and strengthening our connection.

Experience & Credentials

I’ve been a Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot for a year, and it’s been an exhilarating journey. In just under a year, I achieved my dream of flying daily. Despite my relatively short time as a pilot, I’ve flown almost every day and loved every second of it.

In my first year of competition, I was honored with the Rookie of the Year award at the Rio Grande Classic and finished 17th out of 50 pilots. In my second competition, the Younguns, I secured a 3rd place finish. Before joining the Seattle Ballooning team, I gained valuable commercial flying experience in Phoenix.

Passion for Ballooning

What I love most about hot air ballooning is the feeling of floating through the air, where for an hour, nothing else matters. Watching the sunrise and the world wake up is a magical experience. As a commercial pilot, I have the privilege of making people’s bucket list dreams come true and watching them fall in love with flying too. The precision and control required in ballooning is a thrilling challenge that I embrace every day.

Favorite Places to Fly

One of the best parts of being a commercial pilot is the opportunity to fly in different locations and experience unique views and sunrises on each flight. Seeing nature from thousands of feet up is surreal.

Here are my top 5 favorite places to fly:

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Page, Arizona
  • Pagosa Springs, Colorado
  • Winthrop, Washington

Personal Touch

Beyond the adrenaline rush of ballooning, I enjoy digital design, playing the piano, and racing BMX. Playing the piano deepens my love for music, while BMX racing, which I started at 16, has taken me around the world and taught me valuable lessons about trust, dedication, and hard work.

Personal Philosophy

My personal philosophy is: “Quitting is not failure. To fail is to learn. Failure will teach you far more about winning than winning ever will.”

Excitement for the Future

I’m incredibly excited about where my ballooning career will take me next. The sky is truly the limit!