PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s been 225 years since the first hot air balloon flight in America, and the first black commercial air balloon pilot in history will be sharing his stories of aviation to commemorate this pioneering flight.
Forty-two years ago after playing professional football with the Buffalo Bills, Bill Costen piloted his first balloon flight and subsequently became the first black man to pilot a commercial hot air balloon.
“Everybody who plays sports will eventually get cut,” Costen said, “and I accidentally ran into ballooning and it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Costen is presenting at the Balloon Federation of America’s (BFA) National Convention in Philadelphia, commemorating the anniversary of the first balloon flight in America.
“The first balloon flight was from Philadelphia 225 years ago,” Costen said, “and 185 years later, I flew.”
Costen will be presenting the Federation’s Ed Yost Master Pilot Award, the same award he won in 2016 for surpassing 40 years in aviation.
And the historic importance of being a pioneer is not lost on Costen. In fact, he founded a traveling museum that covers subjects from slavery to balloon aviation.
“The museum that I have developed is for generations to come. I believe black history is from January 1 to December 31,” he said…”I’m one of the participants who will display the history of ballooning out of my traveling museum.”
The convention will run from March 22 through the March 25.