John Ballantyne: ultra light and hang glider hall of famer

November 15, 2010
John Ballantyne of Long Neck is an accomplished pilot, examiner and instructor for ultra lights and hang gliders. Last month he was inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association Hall of Fame. Ballantyne is also a Screen Actors Guild stunt pilot. NONE PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN BALLANTYNE

John Ballantyne is comfortable being up in the air. Five years ago he landed in Long Neck. Remaining on the ground and sometimes in the water, is keeping a man with West Coast roots busy and challenged.

Ballantyne was the first person to receive Federal Aviation Administration commercial and flight instructor certificates for trikes – a weight-shift controlled glider.

After receiving his sport pilot rating, he became a FAA designated pilot examiner for trikes.

Ballantyne is a Soaring Society of America flight instructor, United States Hang Gliding Association rated master hang glider pilot and instructor and a pilot-examiner instructor and seminar presenter.

He’s also a United States Ultra Light Association registered pilot and an authorized ultra light flight instructor through the Experimental Aircraft Association. On Oct. 29, Ballantyne was inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association Hall of Fame in Oshkosh, Wis.

Ballantyne, 64, grew up in Pueblo, Colo.

“I started out flying as a little kid. We always had an airplane,” he said.

Ballantyne lived in Frederick, Md. 24 years. After selling a couple homes, he ended up living in the house he was building in Long Neck that he had intended to be a rental property.

“It was the most fortuitous mistake I’ve ever made because I like it here. I’m having a good time,” he said.

He got into flying ultra light aircraft when he moved to Southern California, just when hang gliding was taking off.

So, what’s different about flying a trike compared to other types of ultra lights?

“Everything. In an airplane you have a control stick or wheel and when you pull it back the nose goes up. On a trike, you have a big control bar and when you pull that back the nose goes down,” he said.

He said pilots who have a lot of hours in conventional, fixed-wing airplanes, need to be carefully trained when they’re learning to fly a trike.

“I find the best students are the ones that have never flown before,” Ballantyne said. In addition to ultra lights and hang gliders, he also flies a Cessna 172, a four-seat, single-engine, high-wing, fixed-wing airplane.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Commission recognized him in 2000 for 27 years as a pre-eminent leader in America for ultra light and micro light sports.

In 1996 he received the Moody Award, the United States Ultra Light Association’s highest honor for outstanding contributions to American ultra light aviation. Ballantyne is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 12-09 based at Indian River, where he has served as a vessel examiner. He’s the flotilla’s internet website designer and manager.

Ballantyne said he got involved with the Coast Guard the same way he did with flying, by affiliating with the best people in the world of boating.

He serves as president of the chapter of American Association of Retired People that is associated with American Legion Post No. 28 in Long Neck. Although not a veteran himself, Ballantyne is a Son of the American Legion member. His father, John, was a World War II glider pilot who flew missions into Normandy and Holland.

Ballantyne said he finds driving on Route 1 more precarious than flying light aircraft.

“I’ve never bent one. I’ve never hurt anybody and I’ve never hurt myself,” he said about his flight safety record and hundreds of hours behind the controls.

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