While everything and everybody is buzzing with festive cheer, what are our Virgin Balloon Flights pilots doing this season?
How do they spend their Christmas?
Some of them, such as Pete Philpott, cannot keep away from hot air ballooning even when winter weather means they cannot fly in the UK.
Pete spends his winter and Christmas in Australia.
For the third year in a row, Pete is doing hot air balloon rides in Melbourne.
As soon as the weather turns too cold, wet and foggy to fly, our pilot gets restless. He cannot bear to just spend a quiet Christmas season at home. Pete says:
“I love flying for Virgin Balloon Flights over the varied and beautiful countryside in the Midlands. If the weather is bad and I can't fly during our flying season, I get cabin fever and become grumpy. I have the same problem when we have to stop flying during the UK winter.”
That is why he swaps wintery UK for the sunny landscapes of Down Under for a while.
And Melbourne rewards our passionate pilot with great views and specific challenges:
“It is the only really big city in the world that allows balloons to fly literally through the city skyscrapers! “ “As a pilot you have to manage the cityscape, Melbourne International Airspace restrictions and only small green landing spaces to target fly (towards).”
Why Australia And Not The UK?
During the UK flying season, Pete launches our big red Virgin Balloon Flights balloon from counties such as Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.
When we happen to have a particularly good year, he keeps on flying even into November.
But the weather in the UK doesn’t allow for hot air ballooning to carry on into the winter.
The winds intensify, we have downpours of rain, freezing weather is not uncommon either.
And visibility is drastically reduced, which makes for unsafe conditions to launch a hot air balloon most days.
From December to February, the days suitable for flights are so scarce, that the chance of cancellations increases significantly.
That is why our pilots pack their Virgin hot air balloons away for the winter.
And some of them, such as Pete, seek for more suitable geographical areas where to fly out of UK season.
Christmas In Australia - Barbecue And Beach Time
What does Christmas Day look like for a passionate pilot like Pete?
He will not stay away from his hot air balloon even on such a day.
His day tends to start with a beautiful flight over the nearby Yarra Valley.
As he explains, they to launch just before sunrise down in Melbourne.
A number of hot air balloons lift into the air as the sun rays fill the landscape below.
Keeping Christmas spirit alive, Pete wears his Santa hat on the occasion.
After landing, passengers and pilots together enjoy a Champagne breakfast.
Pete and his crew share presents, before they all go on their way to celebrate the day.
Our pilot says his Christmas Day usually includes a barbecue and some time spent on the beach:
“I hop in the car and drive back to my wife and son at our home on the coast. We’ll probably spend the day snorkelling under the jetty and celebrating with friends, including more presents.” “Then we’ll maybe go and have a barbecue dinner in a shady spot somewhere, either on the coast or at a country park, before heading home to watch the sunset with a cup of tea. “Then it’s bed for 9pm, as I’m up early again on Boxing Day to make more Christmas dreams come true.”
Christmas Back Home
Even when the UK flying season comes to and end (and some hot air balloon pilots enjoy sunnier climes!), Virgin Balloon Flights is just as popular and busy as it is for the rest of the year.
A hot air balloon ride is a hugely popular Christmas gift, living up to our festive motto - ‘Unwrap An Adventure’.
You’d be surprised what fits under the tree and a hot air balloon ride with Pete or any of the fabulous Virgin Balloon Flights pilots from a choice of more than 100 locations across the country is a truly unforgettable Christmas gift.
A version of this blog was also published on Virgin.com.