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Craig Elliott

A Memoir By

I was sweating bullets by the time we lifted off, feeling a little faint, but that subsided, and almost instantly I felt exhilarated and enthralled. This was awesome!!!! So crazy cool!


I felt no fear at all, instead I was amazed by its gentle and peaceful nature. It was as if we were suspended, and the earth was rotating below us. There was no sense of movement at all! Everything below began getting smaller and smaller till it looked like one of those model cities with the miniature train set running through it. The unreal and peaceful atmosphere eliminated any fear of heights. Despite reaching 1,000 feet above ground, I remained oblivious to any feeling of height. You could hear the road noise and dogs barking below. This is incredible! I told Dr. Hall, he just smiled and said, “I know”. Now I was really in love and hooked on this crazy “sport.” 


Come along as Craig Elliott tells his funny tales of adventure, mishaps, and shenanigans during his 42 years as a Hot Air Balloon Pilot. The ups and downs will keep you on your toes and you will become one with the pilots as they float along with the clouds all over the USA.

The Balloonatics book cover art
American Balloon Art depicting the American Flag
British Balloon Art depicting the British Flag

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The Balloonatics Author photograph

Craig Elliott is a rare bird, a professional Hot Air Balloon Pilot for 40 years. Somewhere along the road he took on the pilot nickname of “Capt. Sunshine.” While this may seem a bit whimsical, one only needed to watch him in action as his enthusiasm for hot air ballooning radiated.


He began as a ground crew member for Dr. John Hall, a local balloonist in 1976, after graduating from Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan and soon began taking flight lessons in Hot Air Balloons. He obtained associate degrees in Architecture and Solar Technology from Lansing Community College and started his own company, “Elliott and Sun Builders.” Craig then began employment with Balloon Corporation of America (BCA) in Fenton, Michigan, in 1983.


Following extensive travel throughout the USA with the Buick Olympic Balloon, Capt. Sunshine returned to BCA to begin and manage a hot air balloon passenger ride program that grew to be one of the largest and most prestigious in the Midwest. Competing in many balloon events over the years sharpened Capt. Sunshine’s skills. In 1984, flying the Buick Olympic Balloon in the Great Preakness Balloon Race in Baltimore, Maryland, he placed third. Flying “The Gr-r-reat Tony” Balloon for Kellogg’s at the National Balloon Rally in Statesville, North Carolina, he won the top prize in 1985 and returned to take first place again out of one hundred and forty other balloons in 1986. Several other smaller events were also won. He competed in the Battle Creek International Balloon Championships flying the Buick Olympic Balloon in 1986. He also competed at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 1986 while flying passenger rides and took 1st place in the Mcdonalds Race, and in 1989 flying the Virgin Jumbo III Special Shape Balloon for Virgin Atlantic Airways he won 2nd place in the Special Shape Rodeo event at Fiesta.


Capt. Sunshine excelled in other aspects during his ballooning career as well. He and his wife Michelle planned, and Craig acted as Balloon Meister, for the TV 9 & 10 Balloon Classic in Traverse City, Michigan. They did the same with the Seven Lakes State Park Balloon Race for ten years running, and five years with the Trans-Michigan Balloon Race.


Capt. Sunshine retired from ballooning in 2019 after 43 incredible years of wonderful adventures and excitement. This book will bring you along for the ride. He currently lives in Michigan on a small farm with his wife Michelle, where they raise chickens and several large vegetable gardens.

Career Statistics: Flew 68 different balloons in 11 different sizes and classes from 56,000 cu. ft. AX-6 to 216,000 cu. ft. AX-11

Flew 2,693 flights safely flying 14,401 human passengers, one dog named "Lucky", and one Big Boy Statue thus averaging 5.35 humans and 0.00037 Dogs/Statues per flight.

Over 6,000 bottles of Champagne opened post flight!

Capt. Sunshine
circa 1985


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