Daniel T. Kirk flew hot air balloons for more than 30 years and was named Delaware Balloon Champion on multiple occasions.

Daniel T. Kirk flew hot air balloons for more than 30 years and was named Delaware Balloon Champion on multiple occasions.

His long-running passion culminated this spring in his selection for induction into the Delawarean Aviation Hall of Fame.

Yet, just a month after that announcement, the Hartly resident’s life was cut short when his balloon struck a power line and caught fire near Doswell, Va., killing him and as his two female passengers, both athletic officials at the University of Richmond.

“When the accident happened, what I told his mother was ‘He was doing what he loved,’” said Kirk’s father, Donald, said last week. “I know he loved it. If we said ‘hey lets go flying,’ he was ready to go. He really loved it.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its final report on the crash.

But the man affectionately known as “Capt. Kirk” will still be among seven Delawareans inducted into the state Aviation Hall of Fame on Sept. 27

“I and the other trustees felt that he deserved it,” Bruce Lambrecht, the vice president of the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame, said about Kirk’s selection. “He was very involved with youth and trying to get kids involved in flying. He was very interested in supporting our troops and just generally promoted aviation as a Delaware resident.”

Originally from Dover, Kirk joined the U.S. Army after graduating from Virginia Common Wealth University, in Richmond, Va.

After four years of active duty, he entered the reserves and worked as a cafeteria manager at the Marlboro plant in Richmond. Later, he attended officer training school and once again entered active duty, moving all over the country from Texas to Tennessee, before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the early 2000s.

Daniel began flying balloons when he was in his mid-30s, while he was living in Richmond Va. He started out by serving as a crew member on another captain’s balloon, before launching his own, according to his father.

He moved to Hartley and began a hot air balloon tour company called Starship Adventures.

Labrecht said Kirk used to display his patriotism and dedication to the armed forces by draping a banner across his balloon that read “Support Our Troops.”

Aside from his strong sense of patriotism, Daniel also was known for being a charming, generous man, who loved western wear, motorcycles and – above all – his love of flying.

He even had a hand in helping staring a state chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, an organization that brings together pilots who fly aircrafts such as ultralights and warbirds. That organization is one of the ways that Kirk got involved with youth, Lamrecht said.

“[The Experimental Aviation Association’s] main charitable role is to get kids interested in flying,” he said. “It’s called the Young Eagles. Dan was very involved in that through ballooning.”

Kirk not only introduced youth to ballooning, he also introduced it to his father. Donald flew all over the country, serving as a crew member for his son more than 50 times.

But, Donald said, one particular day sticks out in his memory.

“During a trip we took to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was flying with him and the pilot behind us took a picture of us while we were flying over the Rio Grande and we were getting ready to set down in the water and then pick right back up,” he said. “Dan had probably a 3-by-5 [foot photo] of his balloon right up close with balloons all around us. … It’s a beautiful picture that hangs on my wall in my living room, just inside the door.”

The Delawarean Aviation Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place at Clayton Hall on the University of Delaware’s Newark campus.

Donald Kirk said the event will be a fitting tribute to his son’s memory.

“We’re very proud of him,” he said. “We were very proud of him before the end, but even more so now.”