2021 FAI CIA Hall of Fame inductees announced

The individuals inducted into the FAI CIA Hall of Fame in 2021 were announced at the plenary session in March 2021. The Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum, home of the FAI CIA Hall of Fame, is proud to announce that Wilhelm Eimers from Germany and Jim Winker from the USA are this year’s nominees. Admission to the FAI CIA Hall of Fame is a very high honor in ballooning and the Balloon Museum congratulates the winners and their families.

Wilhelm Eimers

Wilhelm (Willi) Eimers has flown more than 1,400 gas balloon flights since receiving his license in 1979. This is quite an achievement as very few pilots have even made 1,000 flights. He spent about 10,000 hours in the air. As an active instructor, Willi has trained pilots from thirteen countries, including the USA, Canada and Russia. However, Willi Eimers is probably best known as the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett Pilot. He has participated twenty-seven times, more than anyone. In these races he flew a total of 30,551 km in 1,270 hours 33 minutes. With 25 flights this is an average of 1,222 km and 50 hours 49 minutes (2 days 2 hours 49 minutes). He won the Gordon Bennett four times and placed second nine times.

Photo courtesy of Willi Eimers

As a gas balloon pilot, he has also flown nine times in the America’s Challenge / Remax long distance competitions, where he finished second twice. In these two events he flew almost 42,000 km with a total duration of 1,630 hours or 66 days, 45 minutes and 40 seconds. Twelve of these flights covered more than 1,500 km, six more than 2,000 km. Thirteen of these flights lasted more than 50 hours and show his determination, skill and commitment to ballooning.

Some additional successes are his two world records AA07 at 92 hours, 11 minutes (1995) and AA02 at 23 hours 18 minutes and 5 seconds (2011). In 1993 he received the prestigious FAI Montgolfier Diploma for best performance in gas balloons. And now he’s inducted into the FAI CIA Balloon and Airship Hall of Fame!

Jim Winker, the posthumous 2021 candidate, made significant technical contributions to ballooning and was an advocate for sports history. Jim was introduced to ballooning as a crew member for the launch and recovery of Don Piccard’s flight in a converted Japanese FUGO bomb balloon in February 1947. His balloonist career officially began in 1951 as an engineering intern and then as a junior engineer with General Mills Corporation in their scientific balloon program. Jim was named to the Air Force in 1954 and was assigned to her balloon research group at the US Air Force’s Cambridge Research Center in Bedford, MA during two years of military service. Jim joined Raven Industries in 1956 shortly after its founding that year and served as manager and vice president of scientific balloon development and hot air balloon development, certification and market development until his retirement in 1991.

Greg Winker


Photo courtesy Greg Winker

Jim Winker’s contributions to ballooning are great. He was involved in the preparation, inflation, free flight, and restoration of inventor Ed Yost’s first modern hot air balloon flight on October 22, 1960 in Bruning, Nebraska. He held over a dozen patents for scientific balloons, parachutes, and hot air balloons. He was instrumental in pioneering the certification of hot air balloons as certified aircraft in the United States. The Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum has a winker collection that includes an experimental fiberglass nacelle he designed at Raven, Inc. in 1969.


Photo courtesy Greg Winker

2021 induction ceremony

The balloon museum is looking forward to the planned introduction ceremony in 2021 at the Balloon Museum in October prior to the start of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is being planned and will last for as long as Covid protocols allow. The Balloon Museum is proud to host this important event and to be the home of the FAI CIA Balloon and Airship Hall of Fame.

The Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is operated by the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of Albuquerque, Tim Keller, Mayor. For more information, visit www.cabq.gov/balloon or call 311 or 505-768-6020. TTY users can call 711.

history of Lynne Newton, Exhibitions Curator, Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, home of the FAI CIA Hall of Fame
Upper picture: Wilhelm Eimers, photo credits: FAI / Marie-Luce Destang