A Yorkshire balloon pilot got a spectacular first glimpse of this year’s York Maze as he took to the skies with a basket full of passengers who got exclusive snaps of the Battle of Britain inspired attraction.

Martin Collinson, from York, flies for Virgin Balloon Flights and launched from the city’s Racecourse flying east when they drifted over the commemorative maze last week.

Martin, who has been an employment officer for the Territorial Army for 25 years, said: “It is great to see people remembering the armed forces. The design is fantastic and the passengers really enjoyed it.”

The larger than life Spitfire design, which covers an area larger than 15 Wembley football pitches and consists of 1.5 million maize plants, is “a tribute to the servicemen of the country” according to maze owner Tom Pearcy.

“Each year we choose a topical event to motivate our designs and the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain seemed perfectly fitting for 2010,” he added.

Balloon passenger Craig Mitchell, of North Yorkshire, said: “We flew with Virgin for my girlfriend’s birthday and were not expecting to get an exclusive view. We were so impressed with the maze design. Both my Grandparents were in the war, so it’s nice to see people recognising their efforts.”

Pilot Martin,43, flies champagne balloon flights from numerous launch sites in Yorkshire and hopes to thrill many more passengers with the Maze throughout the summer with the attraction open from July 17 until the September 5.

Find out more at www.yorkmaze.com or take a flight with Virgin Balloon Flights at www.virginballoonflights.co.uk