Norfolk based pilot Robert Keron tells us why he loves flying a hot air balloon.
Being a hot air balloon pilot sounds like a dream job – how did you become one?
I was running the family farm when in 1990 I saw a hot air balloon flying over my home in Norwich. I was fascinated and knew there and then I had to become a balloon pilot! I bought a small second-hand balloon and then found an instructor to train me. I qualified as a pilot in 1991.
Balloon pilots generally have quite a varied past. Either from farming, engineering, military, IT ‘etc’ there is no set route. But what we all share and have in common is a passion for the freedom & serenity ballooning gives to us as pilots and our passengers.
What appeals to you most about ballooning?
One of my passengers fittingly described it as flying on a magic carpet. I love the fact that every flight is completely different, because of the wind direction and speed – and I enjoy meeting our passengers as much as flying.
Describe a typical working day.
We often have two flights a day, just after dawn and then again two hours before sunset, when the air is at its most stable. So in the summer we are out of bed by 4am to greet our passengers (normally 16 of them) by 6am.
After the safety brief and launch preparation we are normally in the air for about an hour. Early morning flights have the edge over evening ones for me – the surface winds are generally calm, so the launches are gentle, and the light is great for photography.
Where we fly is completely governed by the wind speed and direction – we usually fly at between 500 and 2,500 feet, although the maximum height allowed is 10,000 feet (any higher and you would need oxygen). A typical flight is 5-15 miles but the furthest I’ve flown is 25 miles.
Once back on the ground we always celebrate with a glass of champagne. Often, customers exchange contact details to keep in touch in the future. We are then taken back to the launch site in a mini bus.
I then say goodbye to the morning passengers and refuel and check the kit before going back home and having a couple of hours’ sleep. Then we repeat the process in the evening, greeting passengers at around 6pm and getting back home around 10pm.
To experience the beauty of Norfolk from the air ring our customer service team on 01952 212750 or visit www.virginballoonflights.co.uk to book today.
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