Myia Hackett ('94 M.AD.CU) flying high in her balloon "MyAir FlyAir"

We drift high above the late-summer fields of Idaho with an eerie calmness. The scenery slowly shifts, yet there is scarcely any feeling of movement. At 6 a.m., the air surrounding the sturdy basket is chilly. Then Myia Hackett (’94 M.AD.CU.) punches the propane burners. Their throaty roar propels the flames skyward, and warmth spills around us.

Hackett, a Spokane native and a special education teacher, is a certified hot air balloonist. Her passion for the sport is, well, burning.  Hackett stumbles over her words, struggling to clarify her love of ballooning.

“It’s hard to explain the feeling. It’s like you’re floating in God’s hands. It’s peaceful,” she says.  Her love affair with balloons started at a young age. “I remember as a child seeing balloons landing and being in total awe,” Hackett said. Her first ride was in 2001. “I told myself, someday, I’ll own my own balloon.”

Ten years later, Hackett owns a turquoise and purple balloon named “MyAir FlyAir.” Her affinity for adventure is nothing new, and her friends and family weren’t particularly shocked when she started ballooning.

“I’ve always been an adventurer. I started skiing and rock climbing and joined the Spokane Mountaineers and went through their mountain school.”

It is the element of uncertainty – Where will the winds take her? Where will she land? – that Hackett loves.

“It’s not a sport for control freaks,” Hackett says. “People will ask me, how do you steer? You don’t steer. You’re at the mercy of the winds.”  She is well aware of the dangers of ballooning. One summer in Albuquerque, N.M., she witnessed a balloon hit a telephone line, wrapping around the wires. Everyone was safe, but the incident left a mark on her.

“I don’t want to say I fly scared but more aware. Being confident and patient are key. When you become impatient you’re going to do something stupid. That’s when bad things happen.”

One spring at Sunset Elementary in Airway Heights, Hackett brought her balloon to show her students, letting them climb into the basket and hit the burner.  MyAir FlyAir did not lift off that day. But surely the children’s dreams did.

This summer, Hackett married fellow balloonist Chuck Danley. They held their wedding, where else, in a hot air balloon. The couple is moving to Peyton, Colo., and will fly in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

-Stephanie Brooks (’11)

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