What it was like being the only Black man to be a professional hot air balloon pilot

Bill Costen and his crew prepare for liftoff at the 2011 New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. Photo courtesy of “Balloon Man” film.

Hot air ballooning is a sport — there are races and festivals dedicated to it. The competition has remained mostly white in its 200-plus year history. However, Bill Costen is the world’s first African American hot air balloon master pilot. His career and life are the subject of a new documentary directed by his daughter Chantal Potter. The film is called “Balloon Man.”

Bill and Lynda Costen pose in the basket with their 1-year old son Jarrell. Photo courtesy of “Balloon Man” film.



  • Chantal Potter - director of “Balloon Man” and daughter of Bill Costen