Texas pilot loves being ‘up in the air’

Published 12:11 am Friday, October 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — The annual Great Mississippi River Balloon Race will be another day in the air for Kinnie Gibson.

At 58, Gibson has spent 38 years of his life in the air.

Of those 38 years, 35 have been spent in a hot-air balloon.

Email newsletter signup

“I’ve always liked to go up in the air,” Gibson said. “The really cool thing about ballooning is we can go out and have fun, while being competitive and enjoying the competition.”

Gibson began flying balloons in 1978, but also spent years skydiving and flying a series of jetpacks as a rocket man with his company, Powerhouse Productions.

When Gibson was not in the air, he was a stunt double for Chuck Norris’ in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” spending 34 years in the film and television industry.

However, Gibson said being in the air is his favorite adventure.

“I was already skydiving, and balloons were just another reason for me to get in the air,” Gibson said.

Gibson has competed in national competitions for skydiving and numerous balloon races, but both are different experiences.

“They’re different aspects to skydiving and ballooning,” Gibson said. “When you skydive, you’re jumping out of a plane, but when you’re in a balloon, you’re coasting along the air. It’s just two different ways of going up in the air, and coming down.”

It feels like a dream, Gibson said.

As a rocket man, Gibson has more than a 1,000 flights to his credit. He has performed for presidents, royalty and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

“I have done many shows with Michael Jackson,” Gibson said.

If it were up to Gibson, he would make his home in the blue sky.

“If I could, I would spend time in the air for the rest of my life,” Gibson said. “When you spend most of your life in the air, you feel free as a bird.”

Gibson has been all over the world as a balloon pilot, skydiver and a rocket man.

This weekend, he will touch ground in Natchez.

“It feels like home to me,” Gibson said. “In the 1800s, I had family that lived 40 miles out of Natchez and Vidalia.”

The Beaumont, Texas, native hopes to pilot balloons until he is 80.