Hidden Women

Bill Costen – First African American Commercial Hot-Air Balloon Pilot in the Country

Below is a great piece on a good friend of mine which I borrowed from his website. I met Mr. Bill Costen in 2005. I was somewhat embarrassed that I had not met this living legend before, as we almost lived in each others backyard. He is one of my Unsung Heros. Below is a synopsis for the documentary film Sky Endeavors: The Story of a Black Balloon Pilot.

The rubber met the road in the early 1970s for Bill Costen. After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills and later being sent to a Buffalo farm team in Hartford, CT, a life-threatening tragedy forced him to put the pads down. The result was a lark that led to the birth of the first African American commercial hot-air balloon pilot in the country.

Sky Endeavors is about more than a 6’5 ex-jock showing the world how to navigate through the clouds; who weathered the ordeal of his mom passing when he was only 10 years old; who flunked out the University of Nebraska his freshman year and moved across the country with something to prove; who warmed the bench in high school only to be drafted in the pros five years later; who survived numerous twists and turns in his life to avoid becoming another ignominious statistic. It is about flight in every sense of the word.

Told through the eyes of Bill’s award-winning filmmaker daughter, Chantal Costen, Sky Endeavors is a multi-layered film that displays a story untold, that will prompt a call to your nearest hot air balloon pilot right after it makes you contemplate the meaning of a dream deferred. It is a piece of history that serves as another reminder of the rich tapestry of not only the African American stock, but also humanity.

Sky Endeavors crystallizes the art of struggle and redemption, while providing an unofficial blueprint for not becoming a victim of circumstance. It is the manifestation for father and daughter, of a dream simultaneously realized. Three decades, thousands of passengers and countless adventures later Bill is still flying, proving that with a bit of faith the sky is the limit.

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