He owns and operates one of the busiest repair stations in the land. He is a former champion of the world's largest balloon fiesta. He is a past president of the AIBF, Inc. Board of Directors. He is a commercial pilot, a certified repairman, an FAA designated examiner, an Aerostar distributor and a hydraulics engineer. He, is George Hahn, and he came to ballooning quite by accident in 1975.
"I was working for a major oil company at the time and had been transferred to Albuquerque to work with the mining industry there. Being single back then, I was at a bar one night and began playing backgammon with a guy wearing a string tie and a bolo in the shape of a balloon.
'Are you aballoonist? I asked. Oh Yes, he answered. So how do I get a ride? Show up at my place at six o'clock in the morning, he said.' The first ride was free and the next one cost $6,300," recalls Hahn.
The man at the bar was Robert Benson. Soon after Hahn met John and Carol Davis and bought his first balloon from John. One year later he earned his private pilot certificate and after another year, his commercial certificate.
Hahn would remain in Albuquerque until 1979 when his employer sent him on the first of many relocations. There was Atlanta, Burbank, Phoenix and then Houston. In July 1983 the company announced a layoff of 4,000 employees. The engineering ranks were cut from 127 to 6. George Hahn was engineer number 7.
Hahn moved back to Albuquerque that October (his choice this time) and made a rash offer l:o buy a balloon repair station (Aerco) from its then owners, Art and Dixie Swenka. Offer accepted, Hahn began his second and current career on November 15, 1983.
Under Hahn's direction, Aerco has grown into one of the largest repair stations in the country. Not content with just repairing balloons, he expanded the company by acquiring a Aerostar distributorship and by pushing the company into areas many balloonists may not be familiar with, such as the military industrial complex and space exploration.
"I recognized early on that the repair business alone was not going to provide the lifestyle that I and my employees wanted, so I was always looking for other ways to expand. By knocking on doors and doing simple prospecting I landed several contracts with the likes of Sandia Laboratories, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and others building large fabric structures for a variety of classified projects.
Seven years ago I hired a fellow who retired from Sandia and was a master rigger of parachutes. This brought us a whole new line of expertise, but not for sport parachutes, rather for rocket payloads. This allowed us to pick up contracts with NASA to build, modify and pack parachutes for scientific payloads." Indeed an Aerco parachute will be used when NASA's project
Galileo explores the planet Jupiter.
Hahn has grown his company to where it is involved with just about anything that involves sewing (excluding tents, awnings and boat covers). Another client is Nambe, the Santa Fe company that produces nambeware, fine metal plates, dishes and presentation pieces. If you've won or seen the trophies at Fiesta in recent years you've seen nambeware. Aerco sewed 140,000 bags for them last year.
Living in Albuquerque Hahn has quite naturally been extensively involved with Fiesta. In 1982, George. Hahn won Albuquerque's Fiesta. He followed that with a top 5 finish in 1983. Having then relocated in Albuquerque, he wanted to give back to Fiesta and volunteered to become an official. In 1984 he was Chief Safety Of ficer. In '85 he was assistant Balloonmeister when he assisted in writing Fiesta's first operations manual. In 1986 he was named Balloonmeister and in 1987 became the first Fiesta Balloonmeister to serve two consecutive years. He was then elected to the Fiesta's Board of Directors and the Executive Board. In 1991, for Fiesta's 20th Anniversary, he was elected President of the Board of Directors. Hahn has now retired from the board but continues to advise Fiesta as a member of the little nown Past-President's committee.
His greatest fear about ballooning? He worries that none of us are doing enough to help our sport grow. His greatest memory of ballooning? The people he's met over the years.
With a highly successful business, a lengthy resume of accomplishment, and a very happy marriage to his wife Carol (also a commercial balloonist), one might think it's time for George Hahn to rest on some well earned laurels. But wait a minute. Mr. Hahn still has at least one blank left to fill in on that resume.
"One thing that has always eluded me is a Top 10 finish at the US Nationals. That's something I'd still like to do."