About us

The FAVIA225 / GEBA Instructor Symposium is being organized by three long time pilots who share a passion for ballooning and a strong desire to improve safety through education.

Our Symposium Directors are:

  • Joe Doerer – Event Coordinator
  • Emelia Bernava – FAA Safety Team Representative
  • Hélène Viens – Registration / Web Administrator

Joe Doerer – Event Coordinator
Joe took his first balloon ride in August 1984 at a festival in Bloomsbury, NJ. He was immediately hooked on ballooning and began actively crewing. Joe earned his pilot’s license in 1987, his commercial rating in 1989, and has over 1000 hours of piloting/crewing experience. He has been an active member of the Great Eastern Balloon Association (GEBA) since 1985; serving on the Board of Directors for a total of twenty years, ten as Treasurer and six as President. Joe helped organize the FAVIA 225 celebration in Philadelphia last year, including assisting as Treasurer of the event.

Joe enjoys all aspects of balloon instruction, both on the ground and in the air. He is happy to be able to say his first student received a perfect score of 100 on her FAA written exam. Joe was a pilot/instructor at the Great Eastern Balloon Camps in 2015 and 2016. He has been a presenter at continuing education seminars in the Northeast US and in Quebec, Canada.

Emelia Bernava – FAA Safety Team Representative
Emelia Bernava is a commercial balloon pilot with 18 years of flying experience. She is an FAA Safety Team Representative and an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). She is involved in safety training for the Wings program and has used her experience with the FAA to help create a refresher course designed for lighter than air DPE’s.

With Emelia’s assistance, GEBA received the first grant in the United States ever awarded to present a safety course for balloonists. With this grant from the AOPA Foundation she organized a unique and well received “Flying in the Wires Environment” power line avoidance seminar. Emelia is currently Vice President of GEBA and has been a presenter at its Continuing Education Seminars and Junior Balloon Camp.


Hélène Viens – Registration / Web Administrator
Hélène has been a resident of Magog, Quebec, Canada all her life. Her exposure to the world of ballooning came in 1985 when she took her first flight at the Festival de Montgolfieres in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu. After crewing for six years she decided to become a pilot and obtained her license in 1992. Drawing on her medical secretary background, she gave 22 years of her passion for ballooning to the Quebec Balloon Association as secretary of the association. Seeing the rich history of ballooning disappear as pioneer aeronauts left the sport led Hélène to write a book on the beginning of hot air flight in Quebec. Her graphics design training, secretarial skills, and print shop experience gave her the opportunity to complete all aspects of production, from initial rough draft to finished product.

Hélène is currently a member of the Great Eastern Balloon Association (GEBA). She served as website administrator and registration coordinator for the FAVIA 225 / BFA Convention in 2018. She has also been a presenter at seminars in her home province of Quebec.