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TM 2018 the Big Black Bird   Bird Willy Productions   Company logos and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies   All rights reserved

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black bird history

The Big Black Bird, now known as “Bird Willy”, has a long history within the sport of ballooning and more specifically within Albuquerque, New Mexico’s ballooning history (which, by the way, is known as the hot air balloon capital of the world).  Anyone who’s been in and around the sport from the early 1970’s may remember the original Black Bird balloon, appropriately named "Smiley".

The original black bird was dreamt up by Ed Black, an Albuquerque businessman and owner of a local Chevrolet dealership, looking for an exciting and impactful manner by which to market his auto dealership.  With the sport of  ballooning just coming into its own (1972), and the city

Smily's test inflation -

RAVEN test facility Sioux Falls, SD, 1972

Ed Black's Chevrolet dealership, which was located at 333 San Mateo, SE, 1974

Ed Black's Albuquerque Chevrolet dealership - 1974

of Albuquerque, NM hosting the first ever World Hot Air Balloon Championships, Black thought it appropriate to create the firstever black bird hot air balloon.  The creation of the original black bird balloon gave birth to an icon within the early ballooning community while creating the marketing buzz Black was looking for in order to gain exposure for his dealership.  The rest of the story is ballooning history.

Back in the day, when not in flight, Smiley was found in its trailer at Black's Albuquerque Chevy dealership, where this writer and his brother could be found climbing on, at age nine.  The original black bird made appearances at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiestas from 1974 through the   late-1980s.   As is evident  by   some  of  the  photos, one, can  see

the marking of the 1970s by the hair and clothing styles. The brightly colored, yellow balloon with distinctive black birds was frequently seen flying the skies high above Albuquerque. Smiley has always been a crowd favorite, with the black bird's contagious smile has entertained  spectators young and old alike for more than 40 years!

The original black bird was retired in the mid-1980s following a long and distinguished flight history spanning nearly 15 years! Its last flight, a failed attempt to cross the summit of Sandia Peak Mountain (10,400ft. MSL) located on Albuquerque’s east side. Shortly after takeoff the pilot  and  balloon experienced a series of problems forcing them to make an emergency, mountainside landing resulting in a total loss of the aircraft. The black bird has been flying for a long, long time - nearly 44 years in total between the two balloons.

the Big Black Bird Hot Air Balloon www.thebigblackbird.com

 1974

the Big Black Bird Hot Air Balloon www.thebigblackbird.com

 mid 1970'S

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