David Levin, the Only Triple Crown Balloonist, Dies at 68

In 2000, he set a distance record for the National Gas Balloon Championship when he and his brother, Alan, traveled 1,998 miles from Albuquerque to Gorham, Me., in his final victory. In the 1995 Gordon Bennett Cup, however, he was in one of three American balloons that wandered across the border from Poland into Belarus. Belarussian combat aircraft opened fire, turning one balloon into a fireball and killing its two pilots. Mr. Levin and the three other American pilots, after making a forced landing, were briefly held prisoner.

Mr. Levin died on Saturday at 68 at his home in Boulder, Colo. His wife, Roberta, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

David Norman Levin was born on June 10, 1948, in Newark. His father, Martin, was a successful real estate developer. His mother, the former Jean Berman, was a homemaker.

David grew up in South Orange, N.J., and took flying lessons before he passed his driving test, pedaling his bicycle to a nearby airport. After graduating from Columbia High School, he enrolled at Boston University, where he earned a degree in business administration in 1971, a law degree in 1975 and a master’s in tax law in 1976.

An avid sky diver, skier and hiker, he was less than enthusiastic about a legal career, so he offered a receptive ear when a childhood friend and ballooning enthusiast approached him with a proposition: Why not open a ballooning resort? His friend had a spot in mind, a former sheep ranch in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.


Mr. Levin on a balloon ride. He was in law school in 1975 when he went up in a hot-air balloon and changed the course of his life.

Roberta Levin

The Balloon Ranch opened a year later, and Mr. Levin caught the fever. “From May to October, I flew almost every day,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1993. “It was…

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