It’s official – we have a World Champion hot air balloon pilot in our midst here at Virgin Balloon Flights.

Our very own flying ace Dominic Bareford has been crowned World hot air balloon champion 2018 - the youngest ever winner at just 25-years-old.

He saw off competition from more than 100 other pilots from around the world to become the 23rd FAI Hot Air Balloon World Champion in Austria this August.

It was only his second time taking part in the historic world-wide contest, having finished 4th in his first competition in Japan two years ago.

Yet despite other balloon competition success since, including winning the British National Balloon Championships three years in a row, Dom said his Worlds win was a genuine surprise.

“It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet and all felt a bit surreal, but it’s a really nice feeling,” he said.

“After finishing 4th in Japan last time, I was aiming and hoping for a top 10 place again but didn’t expect to be right up there in the top spot.”

A career as a hot air balloon pilot was inevitable for Dom, who comes from a strong family ballooning pedigree.

Both his dad David and sister Stephanie are also champion hot air balloon pilots. Just a toddler when he flew in a balloon for the first time, Dom gained his pilot licence at 16.

Dad David was World hot air balloon champion in both 1997 and 2002, meaning the historic winner’s trophy will return to the Bareford home for the third time in the competition’s history.

“I remember as a child looking at this nice trophy in the dining room, not really understanding exactly what it meant and how much hard work went into winning it,” said Dominic.

“It’s got so much history and it’s an amazing feeling to have now won it myself.”

As part of the wider Team GB at the world championships, Dom’s fellow UK pilots included his dad, sister and our very own Virgin Balloon Flights Chief Pilot Ken Karlstrom.

“We had a really great team out there. It was really hard but an amazing experience.”

Dom is now defending his reigning title as UK ballooning champion, as the British National Hot Air Balloon Championships get under way this week.*

*EDIT: Dom went on to win the 2018 British Nationals to become British National Balloon Champion for the fourth consecutive year in a row!

Here at Virgin Balloon Flights, Dom flies our big red balloon in Cheshire, Staffordshire and North Shropshire.

To hop on board for your own airborne adventure with our world champion balloon pilot, find out more here.