Zeigler Auto Group unveiled its new hot air balloon yesterday, April 4, 2021, during a test flight piloted by its Zeigler Maserati-Alfa Romeo-Fiat of Grandville general sales manager, Derrick Jones — an award-winning pilot with 26 years of experience. Taking off from Jamestown Elementary on Easter Sunday at 6:45p.m., the hot air balloon concluded its voyage roughly an hour later just north of Hudsonville.
Jones, a member of the Balloon Federation of America since 1995 and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale since 2011, says he started crewing at the age of 9, took his first flight at 12, and received his student pilot certificate at 14 —becoming one of the youngest pilots in the Great Lakes Area at the time. Later he received his private pilot license at 16 and his commercial one at just 21.
“I came up with this idea not just to share my passion for ballooning, but also to represent the innovation that we so deeply value at Zeigler Automotive Group,” said Jones, the balloon’s pilot and Zeigler Maserati-Alfa Romeo-Fiat sales manager. “I was excited to see everything come to fruition and to see this dream come to life.”
The Zeigler balloon’s next official flight will be at Hudsonville Balloon Days, during Father’s Day weekend. It will also be at Kalamazoo Balloon Fest in Gull Meadow Farms at the end of August, and at Balloons Over Bay Harbor during the third weekend of September. Zeigler also plans to use the hot air balloon as a way to reward outstanding employees throughout the year and has plans to donate rides as raffle items for its Drive for Life Event, which will take place in the fall.
“At Zeigler we are driven to empower our team members to think outside the box while giving them the tools to execute projects they truly believe in. To me this is the epitome of one of those moments that has knocked it right out of the ballpark,” said Aaron Zeigler, president and owner of Zeigler Auto Group.