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SWISHER — Adam Magee, who has been flying hot air balloons for most of his life, will be nationally recognized next week for his work making the sport safer.
An accountant at Hills Bank by day, Magee said he was surprised to receive recognition as the Federal Aviation Administration’s Safety Team Rep of the Year because those type of honors typically go to people who have careers in aviation — not banking.
“My day job isn’t in aviation, so it’s really truly just volunteering and wanting to make a difference and committing to it,” he said. “So yeah, it was pretty neat.”
Magee’s award is one of three being given next week in the 2021 General Aviation Awards, a joint venture between the FAA and others in the aviation industry. The ceremony will be held at AirVenture, a weeklong aviation convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
Magee is being recognized for work he has done around ballooning which has, according to the General Aviation Awards, “shifted the culture of safety in the ballooning community.”
One of his major ventures is the Balloon Training Academy, a nonprofit he opened with his wife, Kim Magee, a University of Iowa employee and a record-holding balloonist.
The nonprofit is an online academy where students can become certified balloon pilots and learn important safety information. The program has certified more than 350 new balloon pilots since it began, Adam Magee said.
“We’d really just started the balloon training academy as a way to grow ballooning,” he said. “ … We really need kind of a younger push of new pilots to really keep not just ballooning, but aviation alive for years to come.”
Magee’s work beyond the academy spans several organizations and ventures. He’s a lead representative with the FAA’s Safety Team and is involved in the National Association of Flight Instructors and the Balloon Federation of America.
Magee joined the National Association of Flight Instructors as the treasurer, and he worked with the organization to develop an “elite balloon instructor” program, which recognizes balloon instructors who go above and beyond in their training. “They were kind of more focused on fixed-wing and helicopter before, and so now we're starting to add some balloon elements to them, so it's been good working with them,” he said.
This is not the first time Magee has been recognized for his work. In 2019, he earned the Certified Flight Instructor of the Year award at both the district and regional level for the General Aviation Awards.
This year’s award comes with a free trip to AirVenture, which Magee said he’s never attended before. The convention is a seven-day showcase from the Experimental Aircraft Association and it includes all kinds of aviation, from planes to helicopters to balloons and experimental craft. He’s also planning to bring his balloon for a balloon glow event during the week.
“I've been told I'm going to be really overwhelmed walking around,” he said. “And I might not get to half of it in the week I'm there.”
Kim Magee, who holds multiple world and national records in balloon piloting, said Adam’s work has improved safety in ballooning and improved national outreach in a way that hadn’t been done before.
She said he’s put together seminars about balloon safety, brought together experts from different fields to craft standards, and adapted some of the standards and regulations from airplane aviation to balloons.
“To see him recognized for all his hard work was really nice, and it was a really proud moment for me,” she said.
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