Meet the NVAloft Balloon Rides Staff


Bill Craig – Hospitality

Ex-Air Force and the son of pilots, Bill grew up with a love of flying. He took his first balloon ride in the mid 90’s and was immediately hooked. Though he has nearly twenty years in ballooning, he considers himself a new-comer. Bill originally started working for Napa Valley Aloft in the year 2000, but subsequently worked for another balloon company with both Jayson Kimball and Jim Marshall. “We had many conversations about how to run a balloon company,” he says, “and now here we all are back at Napa Valley Aloft. To me, this is a dream team. We have an incredible roster of pilots. I know when I put passengers in a balloon with any of our pilots, they [the pilots] are going to show our passengers a good time. It makes it a huge difference. I feel confident about their safety and the quality of the experience they will have. It makes it easy to come to work in the morning.”

JP Gagnon – Pilot

J.P. has been flying in Napa Valley since 1999 when he moved to the Napa Valley to support his wife’s dream of running a Bed and Breakfast. He started his ballooning career in the Napa Valley and trained with some of the most experienced pilots available. J.P. wears many hats here at the company offering assistance in all areas of the business. In his off hours, J.P. can be found fishing anywhere he can. His smoked salmon is out of site!

Pierre (Pete) Brunner

Pierre started in the industry 1983 as ground crew while attending class at San Diego State University. He earned his commercial pilot’s license in 1988 and began flying in San Diego while building a career in the Insurance industry. He has since flown 5300 hours and over 40,000 passengers. He has participated in the Albuquerque International Balloon event as one of the select ride concession pilots for 20 years, he has competed in the Great Reno Balloon Race, the Kentucky Derby Festival Great Balloon Race as well as many local events. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pierre Joined Napa Valley Aloft in June of 2014 to return home. Pierre loves flying and enjoys sharing his time in the air and his passion for the sport with his passengers.

Jim Marshall – Pilot

A long time Napa resident, Jim is one of the most experienced pilots in Napa Valley with over 30 years of piloting. Not only a master balloon pilot, Jim also has years of experience in hot air balloon maintenance and repair. Jim has been flying passengers in hot air balloons for 36 years, his first company, founded in 1978  pioneered wine country balloon flights in Sonoma County. In 1979, Jim recognized the need for a balloon repair station in order to comply with FAA requirements for operating a commercial balloon ride business.  He sought training and became certified in repair and inspection of hot air balloons.  With that, Jim and a partner opened one of the first FAA certified balloon repair stations in the world.  This experience in and out of the air has let to opportunities to fly and service balloons in France, Egypt, the Czech Republic and all over the USA, including the Napa Valley where Jim enjoys the supportive and family atmosphere of Napa Valley Aloft.

Jeff Downes – Pilot

Jeff was first exposed to hot air balloons in Tracy California. He worked part time as chase crew starting in 1995, afraid of heights he was in awe of the sport but happy to be admiring while firmly on the ground. In 2001 he moved to Sonoma County and again found himself in balloon territory. As a side hobby he again took up the chase not for pay but for experience and burner time. In 2002 he received his private certification and in 2004 advanced to commercial pilot status. Jeff has mostly flown only in Northern California with visits to Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. He has been flying in the Napa Valley since 2010. Quiet and funny he enjoys sharing the unique perspective and peace only a balloon can offer- even though he still is not a fan of heights.

Plan Your Adventure Today

Elevate your Napa Valley balloon ride experience by booking with Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Rides!