Michael “The Rolling Pilot” Glen is as passionate as ever about hot-air ballooning.
Nearly a decade has passed since our last contact with Glen, who inspired many with his personal journey as a paraplegic hot-air balloonist. Losing the use of his legs in a car accident at 21, Glen rose above many challenges and competed in balloon festivals all over the country.
He still flies on his own and has had the opportunity to meet and take up other people with disabilities through many organizations, including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Unfortunately, the ballooning community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advising against large gatherings. So, balloon festivals have been grounded.
“I just recently bought another balloon because I don’t have enough,” he said, with a chuckle. “I still fly as much as possible, but of course with the world right now and COVID, it has kind of put a damper on balloon festivals and travel. The health and safety of everyone is more important than a festival.”
When asked if his love for the sport has withered at all during the pandemic, he responded, “Not at all!”
In his personal life, Glen has been through a divorce as well as a career change and a 2015 move to Mesa. His parents moved into his home in the Villages, fulfilling a long-term plan.
“I’m the manager of a team of accountants for a travel agency named Altour,” Glen said. “Not having to drive 45 minutes each way (to and from Phoenix) is a plus.”
He still visits Maricopa often to spend time with family and to show off his balloon at city events, most recently the annual State of the City presentation, which had a theme from the movie “Up.”
Much like his balloons, Glen thinks the city has nowhere to go but up.
“It’s nice to see a lot more businesses coming to Maricopa,” he said. “I definitely look forward to the future.”
With the ballooning future being fairly uncertain, Glen still looks forward to exploring other forms of aviation, such as gliding. But he laughed, saying he believes in keeping to one expensive hobby at a time.
“There’s pretty much always something in the works, it’s just a matter of timing and everything else, especially with the coronavirus,” Glen said. “I do fully expect to get back to it and hopefully this next summer be back on the road traveling the world.”
Occupation: Accounting department manager
Education: Some college
Family: Parents Bill and Susie Glen, live in Maricopa; brother Chris Glen and wife Jenn, and nephews Owen and Connor, live in Spokane, Washington.
Favorite Maricopa memory: “Does it count to say not having to make the commute to work? lol….. But would say flying the balloon out there.”
This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa magazine.