The 17-year-old daughter of Virgin Balloon Flights’ chief flyer has become the UK's youngest female qualified hot air balloon pilot.

Milli Karlstrom, of Northwood, Middlesex, picked up her licence on her 17th birthday from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) offices at Gatwick Airport, having just completed the final stages of her training. She was taught to fly by her father, Kenneth Karlstrom, who is Director and Chief Pilot of Virgin Balloon Flights.

Milli, who experienced her first balloon flight aged just two, learned to fly in a small Virgin hot air balloon in Italy. She is only the second woman ever to collect her Private Pilot’s Licence on her 17th birthday, and, for the time being, is also the youngest qualified hot air balloon pilot in the country.

“It almost doesn’t feel real. I can’t really get my head around the idea if I’m honest," she said. "Being a pilot is so different to being a passenger of a hot air balloon; whilst you can still enjoy the amazing views, I love the excitement of not knowing where the wind might take me and making decisions on the best way to react. My solo flight was my favourite so far. It was liberating to be completely in control!”

The high flying A-level student now plans to continue ballooning as a hobby in the future.

Ian Chadwick, Balloon Inspector at the CAA, said: “Milli has worked very hard to obtain her licence and it is a testament to her commitment that she has qualified at such a young age. It is great to see young people taking up hot air ballooning and we wish her all the best for the future.”

To qualify as a balloon pilot, an applicant has to complete a minimum of six flights including a final test flight with an examiner, as well as passing a written examination in aviation law, navigation, meteorology, balloon systems and human performance.

Congratulations to Milli from everyone here at Virgin Balloon Flights!

You can find out more about Virgin Balloon Flights here!