For Balloonists, a Little Cactus Could Be a Real Thorn in the Side
As a commercial hot-air balloon pilot for 10 years, Mark Johnson wants to make it clear he wasn't that close to a giant Scottsdale, Ariz., cactus. Actually only a local photographer's angle made it seem as if the 101-foot-tall Donald was about to get a close shave. But Johnson, recently hired by Disney, says it was no sweat. "The balloon had no chance of bumping into a cactus—or a building or a mountain," he insists. "That only happens in movies." After his current seven-week aerial tour is over, Johnson, 36, will go home to Tampa, Fla., and await his next assignment—perhaps piloting Disney's Mickey Mouse balloon, Earforce One. "The most anxious time I have ballooning is driving to the launch site," he says. "It's more dangerous driving a car."