ALPHA, New Jersey (WABC) -- Tom Robins, also known as "The Balloon Man" is the owner and chief inspector of SkyTec Balloon Repair Station in Alpha, New Jersey.
Robins' passion for flying and inspecting hot air balloons began 34 years ago after going on his first balloon ride and instantly falling in love with the experience.
He quit his job and began flying, repairing and inspecting hot air balloons as a profession.
"It's a very basic system but very important," says Robins who inspects aircrafts that can fly up to 13,000 feet in the air.
The aircraft must undergo an annual FAA certified inspection to ensure they are airworthy and that everything is safe for flight.
Robins starts his inspections by testing the fabric of the balloon with tester clamps pulling them to certain poundage. If the fabric doesn't tear then it passes that step of the inspection. He later inspects the basket and fuel system, which includes the burner, to make sure there is no damage.
Once all the parts of the balloon are inspected, Robins completes the paperwork indicating that the balloon is airworthy for another year or 100 hours of flight time.
"There's not a lot of balloon repairing stations in the country so it's a nice little niche that I have here. I really get to meet a lot of great people who are my friends too not just my customers," says Robins.
On average, a hot air balloon inspection can cost from $400-$500, unless there are additional maintenance or repairs necessary.
"People ask me: How do you describe what a balloon ride is like? There are literally no words... If you've never done it my words won't do it justice. When you're in the balloon it is very dreamlike. It's pretty awesome. You got to do it!" says Robins.
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