"I love what I do and to share it with people is a wonderful thing. Not many people get to do that, and to be able to take people for a flight, probably once in the lifetime, is a very special feeling."
In 1987, Mike Kijak was working for Hewlett-Packard in Colorado when suddenly the company decided to move the shop he worked for. Although this news was unexpected, this event proved to be an act of fate. Instead of moving with Hewlett-Packard, Mike wisely took his wife's suggestion to go back to school and at 35 years old, they moved to Fresno where Mike pursued and achieved his B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Studies in 1991. Once graduated, they next needed to find that perfect place to "recreate". They chose a place where they had friends - Sonoma County - and "Up and Away Ballooning" was born....well almost!
Things really started moving for Mike and his family in 1993 when he answered an ad for a local balloonist looking for crew in exchange for instruction. Although he was a little apprehensive due to his fear of heights, Mike still thought it would be a cool thing to do. To his relief, ballooning turned out to be a very relaxing activity and his fear of heights was not a factor. As Mike describes it, it is a "see it to believe it" kind of experience!
In 1997, Mike ventured on with his new found love of ballooning and bought his first two person balloon. As a sport pilot with a commercial license, he figured he could sell a ride or two to help pay for insurance. As the balloons could only carry two people, he advertised "Romance Flights for Two" on the weekends.
Unfortunately, Mikes venture was still limited to the weekends as he still had a "real" job at the time! But, fate took a hand when in 1999, Mike was laid off from that job. Instead of going out to get another "real job", Mike took the plunge and brought his company "Up and Away Ballooning" to full time status. He was then able to buy their first six person balloon in 2000 and it proved to be a huge success. With ever increasing need, they have purchased another balloon in 2003, a 10 person balloon in 2005, and will need to purchase another balloon very soon. They are also hoping to include at least one wheelchair accessible basket due to the numerous requests Mike receives from people with disabilities.
Now, with several balloons in the fleet, Up and Away Ballooning is now the largest balloon operation in Sonoma County. They take pride in maintaining a very personal and professional experience, exhibiting unsurpassed honesty, integrity, quality and attention to detail with their flights.
Details such as finding the perfect launch site available to ensure a scenic and safe flight, ending each flight with a hand-made, gourmet brunch served in the gardens of Kendall-Jackson winery and even presenting each rider with their own personalized flight certificate and pin.
No one comes close to offering such a personalized, unique end to their time together!
Up and Away Ballooning
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