Al Nels launched his first hot-air balloon at age 11 followed shortly thereafter with a hydrogen balloon. Those first balloons were made from dry-cleaning bags, the former powered by birthday candles. After getting his first ride in a hot-air balloon while in college, he embraced the sport and earned his commercial license about a month after that first ride. After a few years of sport ballooning Al entered competitive ballooning with gusto. Over the years he has won multiple United States Nationals and World Championships in hot-air balloons. He has served as competition director for multiple events and as the Team Manager for the US Team at several World Championships. Al holds commercial ratings for balloons ( gas and hot-air) and instrument airplane. He is a recent recipient of the Ed Yost Master Pilot Award.