US Women's Nationals Competitors

Balloon "Esmeralda Featherton"

Pilot #1
Amanda Brodbeck

Introducing Amanda, a lifelong enthusiast of hot air balloons who embarked on her skyward journey at the young age of 8. Fueled by an unwavering passion for ballooning, Amanda has transformed her childhood dream into a thrilling profession. In addition to her aerial pursuits, Amanda’s background as an accomplished electrical engineer has honed her technical expertise, which she now channels into building remarkable robots. When not floating through the clouds or tinkering with machinery, Amanda embraces the outdoors, finding solace and adventure in the exhilarating world of mountain biking, the beauty of hiking trails, and the freedom of dance.

Pilot #2
Natasha Stanke

Natasha got her LTA certificate in 2021 and has been focused on competitive ballooning ever since. When not flying, she is a veterinary surgeon and an animal-mom to a small menagerie.
She is passionate about promoting education, safety, and female representation in the ballooning community. She is very excited to be part of Women’s Nationals with such a diverse and talented group of pilots this year! 


Balloon "Wonder Woman"

Balloon "Red Racer"

Pilot #3 Cheri White

From Austin, Texas and mother of twins. Second generation pilot. Started flying in 1975 at age 14 with her solo in 1979. Commercial Hot Air Pilot with close to 2800 pilot hours. Instructor for son Gordie and niece Renai.

Founder and Chief Operating Officer for the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Balloon Program since 2000.

Past Southwest Region Director (2013 to 2019) and Past President of the Balloon Federation of America (2017 to 2019). 

Bronze medal at the 2016 Women’s World Hot Air Championships in Birstonas, Lithuania. Finished seventh place at the 2018 Women’s World Hot Air Championships in Nałęczów, Poland.

Started flying Gas Balloons in 2002 and has competed in seventeen America’s Challenge Races and thirteen Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett Races.

Pilot #4
Peg Billson

Peg Billson was gifted her passion for aviation as a child that continues to this day:

  • She started flying fixed winged aircraft as a teenager, 
  • holds a bachelors and masters degrees in Aeronautical Engineering, 
  • had a 35-year career in the aviation industry 
  • is an instrument rated, multi-engine fixed wing pilot
  • is a commercial rated, Lighter-than-air pilot
  • She volunteers in the following organizations: AAAA, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and Friends of Smokey

Balloon "Shilo"

Balloon "Dutch Direct"

Pilot #5 Sanne Haarhuis

A family history of hot air ballooning. In the footsteps of my uncles and aunts I got my license in 2013 and love competition flying. 

After living in The Netherlands for more than 45 year I just recently moved to the USA. 

Pilot #6 Carolanne Walter

Balloon "Happyanunoit"

Balloon "Still Golden"

Pilot #7 Kelly Hilberth

After crewing for 6 years, Kelly decided she wanted the controls. She earned her private certificate in 2019, commercial in 2020, and hasn’t stopped flying since. Competitive by nature, Kelly hopes to refine her flying skills through competition ballooning. When she’s not running her boutique ride business, she can be found teaching the history and science of hot air ballooning to elementary and middle school students.

Pilot #8 Kimberly Whiteman

Balloon "Flame Buoyant"

Balloon "Daydream"

Pilot #9 Dawn McKenzie

Dawn is a second-generation commercial pilot and is the only female among the seven pilots in the Gauthier family. She was born into the sport and grew up crewing for her dad, Ted Gauthier, and traveling around the country as his crew chief at balloon competitions. She has now been a pilot for more than 25 years. Her balloon, Daydream, was homebuilt by her dad and she flies in memory of him. She works for Ford Motor Company leading Truck Communications and lives in Birmingham, Michigan with her husband and 10-year old twin boys. 

PIlot #10 Holly Pfeifer

Holly got her love of ballooning at an early age of 3 when her family crewed for Owen Keown during the US Nationals in her hometown of Indianola.   The love of the sport led her to travel as a crew member over the summers to many of the major events across the country, training along with her brother in competitive flying.  Holly got her pilots license in 2002 while working on her Doctor of Pharmacy degree.  Ballooning is still a family affair as her sister serves as her crew chief and she has added her husband, son and twin daughters to the crew.   She has received the National Balloon Classic John Russell award from her fellow pilots for her attitude and positive contribution to the sport of ballooning.    In 2019 she participated in her first US Women’s Nationals and won the event as well as being Rookie of the Year.  In 2022 she won the event again when it was hosted in her hometown Indianola.  Holly is very excited to be competing internationally in her first FAI Women’s Worlds competition. 

Balloon "Cherry Bomb"

Balloon "Skyjumper"

PIlot #11 Kellie Rocha

PIlot #12 Janet Patton

Janet Patton of Denton, TX has been flying airplanes for 38 years. A Michigan native, she earned her wings at small airports throughout Southeast Michigan. Janet’s biggest aviation accomplishment was becoming Spirit Airlines first woman pilot in 1996, followed by the first woman Captain in 1998 when the company was headquartered in Michigan. She now works as American Airlines’ youngest woman Boeing 777 Captain.

Janet started flying hot air balloons in 2004. A long time student, she became a Commercial LTA pilot in 2021.

Balloon "Black Magic"