Hot air balloonists host memorial ascension to honor fellow pilot

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of local hot air balloon pilots ascended to the sky early Saturday to honor their late friend and fellow pilot, Dean Donley.

“This is our memorial flight to him,” said Scott Appelman, CEO and founder of Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company.

Friends and family of Donley told KOB 4 that he had a larger than life personality.

“He’s been flying with us since the mid-90’s, a big personality in hot air ballooning, and he passed away two weeks ago,” Appelman said.

Donley was also a U.S. Air Force veteran and a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

“Dean was just a good ‘ol guy. Twenty years out of the Air Force, and he’s been all over the world,” Appelman said.

“He loved Albuquerque, he loved ballooning, he lived life full and even though he went way too early, he got to enjoy it as much as he could,” he added.