When David Woods saw a hot air balloon rising in the sky, he was inspired. He sold his backhoe, bought his own balloon, and began taking lessons with local pilot and WLOS13 weatherman, Bill Norwood. It wasn’t long before David’s wife Erma followed him into pilothood, getting Mt. Pisgah Hot Air Balloons off the ground and sparking an exceptional family tradition. Both David and Erma were FAA certified hot air balloon repairmen. Erma was one of the first women to earn this certification. In their twenty-one-year career, the pair entertained thousands of visitors and locals, flew in festivals all over the country, and even traveled to France to fly in the prestigious Forbes hot air balloon rally commemorating the Montgolfier brothers, inventors of the hot air balloon.
Flying in the Asheville area is not like flying anywhere else. It demands intimate knowledge of the terrain and the capricious orographic, or mountain, winds. David had a knack for mastering these subtle cues, winning local competitions with a combination of skill and intuition. David and Erma were featured in National Geographic magazine and, much to their grandson Addison’s surprise, showed up in his second-grade science textbook. David and Erma were true pioneers of the air and the first in the region to share the thrill of ballooning with passengers.
David and Erma’s daughter Rowena began flying in 1985 under the tutelage of her parents and the renowned balloonist Don Kline, receiving her commercial license in 1987. Rowena owned and operated a successful balloon ride business in the Piedmont of North Carolina from 1986 until 2006, when she retired from ownership to open a yoga studio. At the end of her career, she had spent two thousand hours above the earth and given thousands of passengers the experience of a lifetime.
Since childhood, company owner and chief pilot Addison has been immersed in a daily routine unlike any other: making flight decisions, observing weather conditions, and reading maps and the skies. He got his student pilot’s license when he was fifteen, and it was in 2003 that he really got bit by the balloon bug (watch out for that on your flight!), prompting him to return to school for his private license.
Never far from all things that float, Addison ran his family’s advertising business, installing inflatables and searchlights. But in December 2008, he decided to return to flying, and sold the business. Rowena had kept one of her balloons after retirement, so Addison purchased it from her and R.O. Franks, named for his great-grandfather, was born. The company has grown every year since, and R.O. Franks is proud to introduce our latest addition to the fleet, the newest and largest balloon in the state, the “Coriolis”. Manufactured by Cameron Balloons, the company that made the balloon which circumnavigated the world, “Coriolis” will heft eight to ten passengers with ease.