KEARNEY -- John Kugler, a McCook businessman and hot air balloonist will be inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame on Jan. 29.
The induction ceremony will be conducted during the banquet of the Nebraska Aviation Symposium at the Holiday Inn in Kearney.
Kugler, his brother Mike, and their late father, Russ, started flying hot air balloons locally in the late 1970s.
American manned balloon flight dates to the American Civil War but was a rare event in Nebraska. Gary Sines, of Jefferson City, Mo., the son of Kugler Oil Company employee John Sines suggested to Russ that hot air ballooning could be an exciting pursuit for his adventurous sons, and the rest is history. The pioneering Kuglers led in making it a colorful spectacular sport that we know today and John, rated as a commercial balloon pilot and instructor ,has made his mark in the sport the world around.
John competed in the International Coupe Gordon Bennett Gas balloon race and uncounted national and local ballooning meets. He's taught numerous people from around the United States to fly hot air and gas balloons. Most notable of his students was the late Steve Fossett, who went on to set numerous aviation world records, including the first solo round-the-world balloon flight.
Kugler Co. is a McCook-based regional farm fertilizer manufacturer, which led to Kugler's assistance in pioneering the use of anhydrous ammonia as a lifting gas for gas balloons. Anhydrous is a commonly-used farm fertilizer and is much more economical than helium or hydrogen gas.