The “First & Finest” hot air balloon began, as an idea of Deptford Police Lieutenant Steve Moylan, to use Deptford’s place in aviation history and a hot air balloon to promote police and community cooperation.

As officer in charge of police special operations, some of Steve’s duties were to develop and implement community relations programs.

Other duties were planning and supervising police operations at special events.  Some of these events were charity hot air balloon festivals which drew large crowds.

Steve caught the “Balloon Bug” and spent much of his off-duty time as a crew member for Pilot Harry Collison of nearby Washington Township.

Factors that started Steve thinking that flying a police balloon was the “natural” thing to do were:

1.  The historic Deptford landing of America’s first manned flight in January 1793.

2.  Deptford’s insignia and Township seal incorporate a balloon (right).

3.  In 1993 (200th Anniversary of “First Flight”), the Deptford Township Police
uniform incorporated a balloon patch (right).

4.  The positive reaction of the public to balloons.

5.  The potential to enhance the image of Deptford Township and the Deptford
Township Police.

At this time Steve’s thoughts went from Why? to Why Not? to How?

Steve’s request for input from other police officers received a positive response.  Several officers indicated a desire to participate.  Deptford Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge 72 pledged to cover the start-up expenses.

Steve developed a list of objectives to be met in order to make this plan viable and ready for presentation to the Chief of Police, Mayor and Council.

1.  No tax funds to be used.

2.  An all volunteer crew of police officers, firefighters, emergency
     medical personnel and civilians.

3.  Fully-qualified and certified  pilots and crew.

4.  Fully Insured.

5.  Balloon inspected and certified by the FAA.

6.  Compliance with all FAA rules and regulations.

7.  Ownership of the balloon should in the name of a      non-profit organization.

It was agreed that the official name would be “First & Finest” as suggested by Lieutenant Moylan:

“FIRST” in honor of America’s first manned flight.
“FINEST” in honor of the law enforcement profession.

The “First & Finest” maiden flight took place in May 1998 during the Deptford Day celebration.  The launching site was an athletic field in Fasola Park. 

Thousands of people watched and applauded as the balloon flew off.  Approximately a half-hour later the balloon landed near a residential neighborhood beginning a new era of police-community relations.

The original “First & Finest” balloon was black and gold (Deptford’s colors) on loan free of charge by Harry Collison who also donated his services as one of the pilots.

This balloon served from 1998 until late 2004 when
an FAA inspection indicated it was wearing out.

Original “First & Finest” Balloon      1998 – 2004

In January 2005, Steve Moylan contacted Deptford FOP Lodge 72, Gloucester County PBA Local 122, Gloucester County Police Chiefs Association and several other Gloucester County law enforcement organizations requesting financial assistance in obtaining a new balloon.  Every one of these groups made generous donations.

Several law enforcement organizations from outside of the county, who had not been contacted, apparently heard of the situation and offered their financial assistance.

Encouraged by the support of the law enforcement community, a plan was developed to conduct a one-time only fund drive directed to Deptford area businesses and organizations.  This fund drive ran from January 2005 to June 2005 which enabled the “First & Finest” to order and make a down payment on a new balloon. 

The new “First & Finest” made its maiden flight in Deptford at the “Lions Club Flight for Sight” charity event in June 2005.  This was the same event that years earlier started Steve thinking about flying a police balloon.

Current First & Finest Balloon

Steve Moylan has retired from the Deptford Police.  He does however continue in his position as executive officer of the “First & Finest” as well as president of the “First & Finest” non-profit organization.

The new “First & Finest” is piloted by Steve Moylan, Jr., who was co-pilot with Harry Collison in the original balloon.

Harry Collison and his wife Diane own and operate “Two Angels” balloon company and are often seen flying their two multi-color balloons with their friends “First & Finest.”

The “First & Finest” continues its mission of promoting police and community cooperation by participating free of charge in police,, community, civic, school, church and charity events throughout the region.

It should be said that the “First & Finest” would not and could not exist without the dedicated all-volunteer crew of police officers, retired police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and community-minded civilians.  Thanks to these people the mission continues.