Jennifer Garcia

I am, Jennifer Garcia, born and raised in Albuquerque, NM.   I attended Sandia High School and have a degree in Interior Architecture and Design.  I am the current Associate Event Director for Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, whom I have worked for the last 8+ years.   I didn’t start with pilots, I have handled RVs, Concessions, and Artisans over the course of my time with AIBF.

I obtained my private pilot certificate in July of 2018 and currently working on my commercial rating.  I have been the Vice President of AAAA for the last year, and feel that I can assist the clubs’ movement into the future.    You can see me out ballooning most of the weekends at the Westside launch location, should you have any questions about AAAA or my thoughts on the club.

Thank you,

Jennifer Garcia


Peter Cuneo

Peter Cuneo earned his private hot air rating in 1989 and subsequently added commercial and gas endorsements.  He is a retired engineer and has been the Vice President for AAAA in the past.   His main ongoing objective as VP is to provide the best possible speakers and venue for the monthly general meeting.  He welcomes suggestions from AAAA members to achieve these goals.

Rachel Zimmer

Hello! My name is Rachel Zimmer and I would be honored to serve as the Vice President of AAAA.

I have been involved with the AAAA Ways & Means committee from 2017- present. From 2018-2019 I served as the AAAA Ways & Means Board Member and still remain on the committee. In April of 2016 I became a Private Pilot and the following April of 2017 I became a Commercial Pilot. I also successfully trained my first student how to fly and it happens to be my husband Jesse Zimmer! We have three balloons named Huckleberry, Fruit Loop! and Detour.

I graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2006 with a Bachelors in Human Resource Management and General Management. I worked for many years as a Human Resource Manager before I chose to stay home and raise my kids for several years. Last year I began substitute teaching at Rio Rancho Elementary School 3-4 days a week. I have a wonderful husband Jesse and two kids Dillon who is in 4th grade and Hannah who is in 2nd grade. I spend my free time ballooning, camping and volunteering a various places.

I have lots of exciting ideas on presentations for the club. It would be a joy to serve on the AAAA Board once again and I look forward to the opportunity.


Dick Rice

I’m a retired CPA, began my involvement with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) as a scorer in 1975.  I became a member of the AIBF Board of Directors in 1977.  I obtained my Commercial Pilot Certificate in 1978 and was President of the AIBF Board of Directors in 1983.  Upon changing my career, I left the AIBF Board and ballooning for 15 years.  Upon retiring, I returned to the Board and have served since 2002 as Treasurer. I am also Treasurer of AAAA, the local hot air balloon club.  I was awarded the Sid Cutter Award from AAAA for my “outstanding contribution to the sport of Hot Air Ballooning” I also received the AIBF Heritage award and was inducted into the AIBF Hall of Fame.  My wife Judi and son Brad are also balloon pilots and have participated in the Balloon Fiesta for many years.  My first balloon, a Barnes Firefly 7, named WINDSONG, because it was always on my mind.  (if you are old enough you may remember the perfume ad).  I was a partner with my son Brad in Hears of Fire and presently one of the pilots of the Fiesta Balloon.

Crew Development

Sue Palmer

Hello!  I’m Sue Palmer and I’m interested in the Crew Development position on the AAAA board.

One day in May of 2010 I was standing on Westside Boulevard doing what I did every weekend since moving to New Mexico a few months before; gawking at hot air balloons.  A truck pulled up next to me and a complete stranger leaned out the window and asked, “Would you like to chase a balloon?”  I immediately said yes and it was the best impulsive decision I’ve made ever.

Nearly every weekend in the almost 10 years since then, I’ve crewed and chased for hot air balloons.  I’ve even had the privilege to be part of the crew and chase for gas balloon pilots in the America’s Challenge.  I’m currently crewing for 6 pilots and if all goes well, there will be a 7th pilot to add to my list.

I’ve had the immense joy of being involved at the crew level in many Albuquerque Balloon Fiestas as well as out of town rallies in New Mexico and other parts of the U.S.  I love talking to the people who come by and doing my best to answer what questions they may have, many of the questions being the same ones I had  when I started out.

That said, I still feel like there’s always more for me to learn.  If elected to the Crew Development position, I would like to add in some educational components now and again.  I am definitely open to suggestions from other crews, and pilots as well, about what topics they’d be interested in covering.

I don’t want to lose the fun though!  There will be games and contests too.  I’ve heard about games that have been played in the past, and I’ve heard some ideas for games that are brand new.  I would like to draw from both the past and present.

Thanks for considering me.  See you at the launch site!


Peg Billson

Hot air ballooning is one of the last bastions of the freedom to fly!  One of the missions of AAAA and the Education Committee is to protect this freedom by offering continuous learning opportunities to promote and enable the safety of our ballooning community.

Almost as immediately as I joined the ballooning community, I joined AAAA and the Education Committee. More recently serving as the Education Committee’s vice-chair.   I have a passion for all aspects of aviation learning and sharing knowledge which include instructing at the Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot Ground schools, presenting at the annual Safety Seminars, as a Balloon Fiesta Launch Director and more recently as a Safety Officer.  I am a Commercial rated LTA pilot as well as an instrument rated fixed-wing private pilot with single engine and multi-engine ratings.  I also have significant experience in committee governance through my participation on For-Profit Boards and Advisory Committees.

I look forward to continuing to serve our balloon community as your Chair of the Education Committee with my time, energy and experience.

Flying Events

Mike Bertetto

I’m Mike Bertetto, I thank you for your consideration for the position of Flying Events.

I starting crewing in ballooning in 1978, in the early 80s I starting racing cars in the Albuquerque area. Through the years I’ve promoted races, worked with the sponsors, announced the events as well as campaigned a car.

In 2003 I become president of the Del Norte Band Boosters for four years. Finding out the non-profit organization was not in place, I rallied the troops, filed for a nonprofit status, learned how to obtain grants and worked with our state Senator to get a new band truck and much needed instruments.

In 2016 I choose to become a pilot and obtained my private certificate. 2017 I succeed with my commercial certification. I believe with my past history of organizing and promoting I can take our flying events to a new level. I would like to work with the government in Rio Rancho to make the launch site easier to get to and work to get the community involved with our monthly flying events. There is a lot we can do to take AAAA to a higher level.

Thank you, and I would appreciate your vote.

Doug Gantt

The day after Doug Gantt moved to Central Florida, he saw a hot-air balloon lifting off from the open field next to an orange grove in the morning mist and he was captivated.  Soon after that first encounter, Doug moved to DeLand and attended his first balloon rally; both as a spectator and a photographer.  Shortly after attending this rally, Doug took his first balloon ride and soon thereafter bought his first balloon; and thus, began his illustrious ballooning career.

With over 25 years as an experienced and professional balloon pilot, Doug’s expertise has allowed him to work with an enviable list of corporate clients and he has participated in balloon festivals across the United States, Canada, and Taiwan.  Doug has been a commercial pilot, flight instructor, safety seminar speaker, event organizer, and an on-air personality for radio, television, and film documentaries.  He has also operated and managed corporate balloon programs for several Fortune 500 Companies, achieving exceptional and measurable results.  Doug is also a frequent contributor to Ballooning Magazine and an award-winning nature photographer.

With over 1,300 hours of pilot-in-command time, Doug has safely flown thousands of delighted passengers.  For 15 years, he was the Organizer/Balloonmeister of the Central Florida Balloon Rally in DeLand, Florida; an event recognized annually as a Top Ten Event in the Southeast.  He is also a speaker and presenter at Balloon Safety Seminars on the subjects of Meteorology, Safety, Pilot Awareness & Decision Making, and Pilot Professionalism.

A brief listing of some of the corporate partners that Doug has worked with include Ford Motor Racing, the Bacardi Corporation, Sara Lee, Heavenly Ham, Hawaiian Tropic, ATT, and Taco Bell; and Sony Electronics as an integral part of their national campaign for WEGA televisions as they received an Effie due in part to our dedicated efforts.  He has also worked with WSHE BIG 100.3 Radio (Oldies) and WFTV-9 (ABC), in Orlando, Florida.

Hot air balloon rides are conducted seven days a week in Orlando, Florida, with Magic Sunrise Ballooning, and in Denver, Colorado, with Balloon Rides of the Rockies.  Corporate Aerial Balloon Promotions for clients throughout the United States are conducted with Fantasy Ballooning, and as one of a select group of pilots, Doug is also a Special Shapes Balloon Pilot, flying Ham-Let, The World’s Largest Flying Pig, with his company When Pigs Fly.

The decisions that Doug makes as a pilot are vitally important, and his enviable safety record is a testament to his careful, concerned, and calculated approach to both flying and crew training.  Doug is well-known for his expertise in public relations, media relations, and corporate client relationships.  With 600 registered pilots at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Doug is one of 12 pilots selected each year to work with Media Relations.  In doing so, he provides color, commentary, and rides to local, national, and international media representatives who are on assignment covering Balloon Fiesta.  During his flights for Fiesta he has worked with many highly-regarded journals such as Forbes Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and television specials with The Weather Channel and Google Earth.

Doug is a member of the Balloon Federation of America, and graciously donates his time, talents, tethers, and flights to charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Craig Hospital Right for Flight in Denver, and to elementary schools and youth groups in the areas where he travels to attend events.

Steve Williams

Steve Williams, age 55, has been actively involved in ballooning for the last 6 years. He crewed for some fantastic pilots including Bob Raper, Bruce Pivic, and Kent Barnes, and then became crew chief for his business partner and friend Top Gun and AAAA pilot, Lonnie Carreathers. Being an avid sailor, both for pleasure and offshore competition, Top Gun brought an even greater ballooning passion for Steve who went ahead and got his Private LTA in Dec. of 2018 and subsequently his Commercial LTA in August of 2019. Steve was an additional pilot with Bruce Pivic flying Miss Wyoming in 2019 AIBF, is a BFA member, AAAA member, and is a current director, secretary, webmaster, and competitor for Top Gun. He enjoys community activities, balloon events, pilot instruction, and is looking forward to helping with this year’s Rio Grande Balloon Camp.

Steve is a Technologist and Entrepreneur. He is used to bringing infrastructure, technology, and project management to everything he is involved. He is an investor and participant in multiple local businesses including Lifetime Chiropractic and FireWorx Fire Protection, LLC and oversees multiple national companies along with serving on boards of directors for both profit and not-for-profit entities.

If elected to be the Flying Events director, Steve knows that there are big shoes to fill from the previous directors. Steve will utilize his business skills to build upon existing systems. He will work closely with the education and crew development directors to make sure that events are well communicated with the membership, fun, creative, safe, and always have an educational component.

Steve has lived in Corrales, NM for over two decades and has delighted in having balloons land on his property. Now he can launch from there!

I ask for your vote as AAAA new Flying Events Director and promise, with all your help, to learn fast and make our flying events educational, creative, safe, and fun!

Ways and Means

Chani Kaibetoney

My introduction into ballooning was in 1986 when my parents had a show on the local Community Access channel. They were media at Balloon Fiesta that year, and I was just along for the ride. But the HAB bug bit me and I have loved the sport ever since. I have remained involved as crew/crew chief/student pilot all these years. I’ve been a member of AAAA for many years, have volunteered on the Special Events Committee, and have been a sponsor for the Friends and Lovers Rally.

More recently, I began volunteering with Balloon Fiesta, and now am a part of the merchandise team working with inventory and can also be found working in the gift shop at Fiesta office.  I also have been an independent small business owner the last 6 years.

If elected as the Ways and Means chair, I want to bring some new and exciting ideas to the club for fundraising! I also want our current sponsors to get the best experience they can as sponsors as well as bringing in sponsors from all different areas of interest for our members. I also want to bring back some fun “outings” for our members to have time to relax, socialize, and spend time with other ballooning families.