We’re taking life higher on International Women’s Day and putting the spotlight on some of our incredible female hot air balloon pilots. We sat down for a chat with ace Virgin Balloon Flights pilots Lindsay Muir, Rebecca Cains and Kate Holzer about their love of ballooning, why women are amazing and what advice they had for other budding female pilots.

When Did You First Know You Wanted To Be A Hot Air Balloon Pilot?

[caption id="attachment_8296" align="alignright" width="300"] Pilot Rebecca early in her ballooning career - she still loves flying just as much![/caption] Rebecca It was love at first sight and training began! From that first flight I loved it so much that I bought the company, investing my heart, body, soul and hard earned cash. I had a vision and I followed it. Lindsay I fell into ballooning by accident while studying for a PHD at Bath University, when someone joined the department who had been on a flight. Although a member of the university balloon club, I had never actually flown but was so enthused by what she told me that I went along one weekend. One flight and I was absolutely hooked. I got my pilots licence and we bought a balloon. I was working as a research biochemist at the time but just didn’t enjoy it and always wanted to be outside instead. When the CAA introduced the commercial ballooning licence (1991), I got mine straight away and gave up my job to go full time as a pilot. Kate My step-dad is a balloon pilot but despite growing up around hot air balloons and even crewing for him, I actually had no interest in flying them until he finally convinced me to have a go on the burners at a balloon festival in Switzerland. From that minute I was hooked and knew I wanted to become a balloon pilot myself, getting my private pilot licence then my commercial licence as soon as I could.

What’s The Best Thing About Being A Pilot?

Lindsay The weather means no two flights are the same, so the views and landing sites always change. I have had some incredible flights over the years. My very first one on the 200th anniversary of the first ever manned balloon flight sticks out, as do some of my record-breaking flights. But best of all was my flight from the World’s Islands in Dubai to a tiny parachute drop zone on the edge of the city, which stuck out into the Persian Gulf. There was no margin for error! Competition flying is my passion. I won the first national championship I entered and when I had the opportunity to compete at international level, I grabbed it with both hands. Rebecca Working with the elements, realising people’s dreams to fly in a balloon and having an office at 3,000ft. Kate The best thing is working in the sky, plus the fact that our work can potentially take us anywhere. It's the best job in the world.

Any Advice For Other Women Wanting To Become A Balloon Pilot?

Kate I would say try it, you’ve got nothing to lose. If you get in the sky and love it then go for it, even if it’s just for a hobby. It’s a great feeling being able to fly and to share it with people. Lindsay Go for it! It’s great. Remember – This Girl Can! As a child I always wanted to do whatever my brothers did and my father was always willing to show me how, whether it was water skiing or learning to fix a car. Ballooning is still a male dominated world but don’t give up if someone knocks you back. Someone (often a woman!) will be there with a helping hand to get you back on your feet. Rebecca Take action! Join the British Balloon and Aerospace Club and be determined, focused, bold and patient.

It’s International Women’s Day - What Makes Women Awesome?

[caption id="attachment_8297" align="alignleft" width="300"]international women's day Pilot Kate enthralls schoolchildren with a talk about being a hot air balloon pilot.[/caption] Rebecca As a single mother of two incredible girls, need I explain?! But ok, seen as you asked. I see us as tenacious, adaptable, tolerant and with an amazing ability to function on many different levels. Kate So many things make women awesome but I love how well we can multitask! International Women's Day celebrates just how amazing women really are. Lindsay When it comes to ballooning, women are just as competitive as men but we get on with it without the posing and ego. Often we also manage to do it with children in tow! We’re also more willing to help each other without feeling that we might ‘lose an edge’ over another pilot. Women are designed to multi-task and we just get on with it.