Update: Please note that we no longer fly from this site. To view our current launch site listing please click here.

A Staffordshire pensioner, who is no stranger to the limelight because of her famous name, helped a top balloonist reach a major landmark by becoming his 10,000th passenger.

Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Neal Parry celebrated the milestone with a party in the sky over the county during a Champagne balloon flight from Uttoxter Racecourse last week.

Lucky passengers wore party hats, let-off party poppers and tucked into a special Virgin balloon cake at several thousand feet to mark the occasion.

Neal’s official 10,000th passenger was 70-year-old Bridget Jones, of Polesworth, who took the flight with 71-year-old friend Gerri Williams.

Ms Jones, dubbed the ‘real Bridget Jones’ by several national newspapers because she shares her name with Renée Zellweger’s character in the film of Helen Fielding’s hit novel, said these kind of things always seemed to happen to her.

“I can’t believe I am the 10’000th person pilot Neal has flown. What an achievement for him and a claim to fame for me. It must be a continuation of the ‘Bridget Jones’ celebrity lifestyle,” she said.

“It was such a fantastic experience and my favourite part was following the meandering River Dove and seeing Sudbury Hall from the sky. The party was an excellent way to round up the wonderful flight.”

The Virgin balloon floated east from Uttoxeter for an hour and 20 minutes before landing around seven miles away in the village of Scropton.

Also on board was 38-year-old Virgin Atlantic pilot, First Officer Lucy Mildwater, from Dodsleigh, who said: “The experience was amazing. It surprised me how Neal landed something with no engine so perfectly in such a small area. The party made the flight very ‘Virgin’ and was great fun. I’ll certainly be looking to do another for my 40th birthday.”

Mr Parry, who has been piloting balloons since 1993, took it up as a hobby and soon grew to love it. After passing his commercial pilot’s licence he didn’t look back and spent several years flying tourists over the Kenya’s Masai Mara before returning to fly in the UK.

“It’s so great to be able to deliver such satisfaction to people’s lives. It’s a great milestone to reach 10,000 passengers and I’m looking forward to the next 10,000,” he said.

To book a balloon flight with Neal from Uttoxeter Racecourse, Amerton Farm near Stafford or one of Virgin Balloon Flights’ other 100 UK locations visit www.virginballoonflights.co.uk or call 01952 212750.