Our 2012 flying season is well under way and despite the Great British weather, we’re off to a great start. Not only have we added some beautiful new launch sites but we’ve gained 4 fantastic new Virgin Balloon Flights pilots.
The first of our new additions is experienced pilot Bart D’hooge. Bart began his journey of balloon piloting in his home country of Belgium in 1992. Since then he has worked in France, New Zealand and most recently in Holland where he flew the biggest passenger rides balloon in the world – carrying 32 passengers in total! We are now lucky enough to have him join us in southern Scotland, covering several of our scenic launch sites. When we asked Bart what his favourite memory of ballooning was he simply replied “I have been fortunate to work in a lot of special places over the years, which makes it really hard to choose a single flight. However I can still remember my first solo flight in a balloon, I really had a sense of freedom I had never experienced before.”
Our next new pilot is the lovely Chris Oxby who has taken reign over some of our launch sites in Yorkshire and the North East. Chris almost bought his first balloon in 1990, after designing the balloon – colours and artwork included – he suddenly remembered that he had never flown one before! So to confirm his instincts, he booked a balloon flight to see if he actually liked flying, of course he absolutely loved it and went on to achieve his commercial rating in 1993. Over the years, along with his wife Linda, Chris has experienced an array of balloon rides from inside the Arctic Circle to the Middle East and not to forget the journey across the English Channel not once but twice!
No stranger to us here at Virgin Balloon Flights, is our third new pilot is Peter Philpot who began his airborne career with us as a crew member and has gone on to become an experienced
pilot, flying our passengers over the Lake District. Initially flying balloons in Australia in 1999, Peter worked on a huge promotional frog balloon and since his ballooning adventures have taken him all over Europe and he even spent a winter in Burma flying over an area of 2000 Buddhist temples. Here’s what Peter had to say about his job “I have flown all over the Midlands in the UK and love flying in the gorgeous Lake District. I love everything about my job. I’m a real enthusiast about ballooning and love the fact that every flight is different and we get to see the best times of the day from the best places. I love it when people shake my hand after a flight and tell me what a great time they had – it’s a real buzz.”
Last but by no means least, meet Russell Collins who achieved his lifetime ambition to become a balloon pilot in 2003. Since then he has taken to the skies from many countries including New Zealand, Thailand, India, Italy, Austria, the Swiss Alps and is now flying over the beautiful Warwickshire and Gloucestershire countryside in the UK. Russell enthusiastically told us why he simply loves ballooning “Balloon flying privileges you to see the beautiful countryside up-close and at a pace where you have time to enjoy it and take in the detail from above. The job satisfaction gained from witnessing someone’s balloon experience and seeing them beaming after their flight is hard to beat.”