Next in our Father’s Day series celebrating ‘Dads In Aviation’, we got the lowdown from one of our pilot’s daughters on what it’s like to grow up with a hot air balloonist for a dad.
[caption id="attachment_6321" align="alignright" width="217"]
Abi has loved balloons since she was a small child.[/caption]
Children with a hot air balloon pilot for a dad really are a lucky bunch.
Take Abi Sutcliffe, whose dad Dave is the Virgin Balloon Flights pilot for Yorkshire.
Not only has she flown alongside her dad hundreds of times all over the UK, she has also taken to the skies with him above The Alps, in Florida and even the beautiful Southeast Asia.
And when ballooning has been part of your life since the day you were born, Dave wasn’t at all surprised when Abi told him she wanted to train as a hot air balloon pilot in her own right.
Although one of her first memories as a very young child was being scared of the burners and the balloon’s huge size, the 22-year-old said she has never forgotten the excitement of chasing her dad’s flights in the car with her mum and brother, trying to beat the retrieval crew.
“We had no maps or anything, just followed the balloon in the sky and I was always so excited when we got to the landing field and found him,” she said.
Dave always got Abi involved with his hot air ballooning, giving her plenty of small jobs to do when he would fly.
“When I was little, it was exciting and fun and as I got older, I wanted to know how it works.
“But it was the first time I got to touch the burners, when dad put me in charge of one of his personal flights for a quick go that I knew I wanted to get my pilot licence.
“As time passed and I had more, longer goes, I was just hooked.
“I still remember the first time I inflated a balloon myself as if it was yesterday, which gave me a push to try even harder as dad trusted me to do even more than just fly along with him.” Abi’s friends also think she had the coolest dad around, especially when she got to take a few of them with her on a flight for her 12th
[caption id="attachment_6318" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Getting into the thick of things even as a toddler.[/caption]
“They still talk about it now. Even now, my friends all think it’s amazing what Dad does.
“I often get texts from them like ‘waved at your dad today but he ignored me’ or ‘just seen your dad’, and it takes me a while to realise he’s up in the sky, flying the balloon over their house.”
But Abi said the absolute best thing about having a hot air balloon pilot for a dad is the incredibly close daddy-daughter relationship they have as a result.
“It’s something that he and me share and I don’t think many other girls in their 20s can say they spend a lot of time with their dad doing something they both love.
“We spent so much time just the two of us growing up that we’re really close now. We’d go to balloon meets all over the country so our weekends were never boring.
“It’s also nice that I can often see him flying over when I head out to work. He is always up and out of the door before me when he’s flying so I don’t see him in person.
“I always look for him in the sky when I know he’s flying, even when it’s not near home and love it when I do see him, however far off he might be.”
The last word has to go Abi’s dad and ace Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Dave, who couldn’t be prouder of his not-so-little-anymore girl.
“I finally let her have a go at flying once she was tall enough to see over the edge of the basket,” he said.
[caption id="attachment_6325" align="alignleft" width="300"]
One very proud dad and his future hot air balloon pilot daughter.[/caption]
“She’d been looking forward to having a go for ages so I finally let her one day when she was old enough, to see if she had what it takes.
“I had to build her a box to stand on so she could reach the burners but she did brilliantly and just fell in love with ballooning.
“At the moment we’re both so busy that it’s finding the time to actually start Abi’s formal pilot training, as I obviously want to train her up myself.
“But when we do, I know she’s going to be an absolutely amazing hot air balloon pilot – she’s my daughter after all.”