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Brunswick County Composite Squadron SM Credits CAP for his Career in Aviation

SM Bill Meadows describes his 1971 balloon flight across North Carolina
SM Bill Meadows describes his 1971 balloon flight across North Carolina. Photo credit: Capt. Kathy Nicholas, NC-170 Deputy Commander. (click image to view full size)
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Senior Member Bill Meadows continues his 65-year journey with Civil Air Patrol

7/6/2015–– SM Bill Meadows joined the CAP as a cadet in 1950 at age 13 and credits the training he received with his success in aviation and business, and with his introduction to ballooning in 1969.  Bill's interest in flying was cultivated as a member of the Statesville, NC squadron, where he progressed to Cadet Captain in 1954 and as a Senior Member 2nd Lt. in 1955.  When Bill left the squadron in 1957 to enlist in the U.S. Air Force, he was a 1st Lt. in the CAP.  While serving in communications at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC, AFB, Bill maintained an active senior membership in the Raleigh, NC squadron (1958-1959) and the Goldsboro, NC squadron (1959-1962), staying active with CAP into 1965. Bill recently rejoined the CAP as a SM of the Brunswick County Composite Squadron, NC-170. 

Bill recounted his early days in CAP and his balloon and fixed-wing aircraft flying experiences for NC-170 members and guests at a recent unit meeting at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport.  His association with ballooning started in October, 1969 when he went on his first flight in a hot air balloon, which lasted for over one hour.  He was hooked and later that month bought a certified Piccard AX-6 balloon, which he named "Kitty Hawk."  Bill took his FAA Check Flight in January, 1970 and was informed by the examiner that under the new FAA regulations, he was the first person to be issued a hot air balloon license in the southeastern United States.
Over the following 45 years Bill competed in balloon races, and conducted balloon promotions.  In 1970  he founded Balloon Ascensions, Ltd, (BAL), an FAA approved training company, located on a 40 acre site north of Statesville.  During one ten-year period, BAL trained over 100 students, sold around 50 balloons and conducted more than 300 balloon promotions nationwide.  Bill was an instructor and had eight other instructors at the facility, which was operational for twelve years.  
One of Bill's largest promotions was "The Great RCA Cross Carolina Balloon Flight" in 1971, a true point-to-point flight which stretched from Spindale to Morehead City, a distance of 377 miles over 69 days with 31 flights.  Bill took Lt. Governor Pat Taylor on a flight along the way as well as Governor Bob Scott, at the stop in Raleigh.  
Bill founded The National Balloon Rally in 1974 and The National Balloon Racing Association in 1980 and in 1981 he bought a Cessna 182 to act as the official chase plane for the NBRA.  He had the plane for 18 years and logged 2,600 hours of business and pleasure flying.  Bill also started the United States Airships International organization.  Bill's ballooning activities have taken him to many states throughout the U.S. and several foreign locations, including St. Croix and Guatemala.  Over the years Bill also served as Sales Director for The Balloon Works; on the BFA Events Committee and on the BFA Board of Directors along with Malcolm Forbes; and as Sales Director for the Blimp Works Airship Division and the Blimp Division.  The National Balloon Rally is now The Carolina Balloon Fest and is in its 41st year.  The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta got its start in 1973 after thirteen balloons conducted a small local balloon event in Albuquerque at the state fairgrounds in 1972.  Kodak now reports that this is the most photographed event in the world.
In addition to holding a single-engine-land private pilot's license, Bill added in 1979 his commercial lighter-than-air free balloon license.  He has logged 1600 balloon flights, and at 78 years old this month, will be the oldest member of NC-170, representing an outstanding example for the cadets of how the CAP can play such a large role in one's life.