Imagine if your ‘office’ was a floating basket, mid-air above the British countryside and your role involved meeting new people everyday and making their dream of flying come true. Pretty good job right? Well that’s exactly what our hand-picked pilots get to do. Ballooning is one of the most magical experiences and not only do they enjoy regularly flying a basket full of lovely passengers, but they’ve also had the chance to break world records, fly special shape baloons and float over famous landmarks all over the world. We recently spoke to some of our pilots and asked what their most memorable, exciting or different flights were. Pilot Brad Smith remembers one of his most adventurous flights in Kenya, flying over the Masai Mara where he flew over the Big Five wild animals. He said “When I landed the balloon, the passengers climbed on aboard the 4x4 and then lions started to circle the empty balloon!” Luckily Brad got away to fly another day and doesn't see too many lions where he flyings northern Scotland. Experienced pilot Bart D’Hooge has flown in many special places over the years but says the one flight he will never forget is his first solo flight. “I really had a sense of freedom I had never experienced before.” Bart now enjoys this unique sensation when flying passengers in southern Scotland.
Virgin balloon in Italy
Alan Lusty remembers flying over the surface of the Mohne Reservoir and Damn in Germany, a target of the infamous World War II Dambusters raid. To top it off, he managed to land that flight on a hospital’s helicopter launch pad – talk about parking!
Pilot Chris Oxby has had the opportunity to fly a variety of balloons, including the 150ft tall ‘Bertie Basset’ special shape. But says, his most memorable flight is flying balloonsover a rain-forest on the Caribbean Island of Antigua and taking off from an altitude of 10,000 feet on the Dachstein glacier in Austria. He recalled, "There were about 12 balloons launching altogether. It was a fantastic flight, we went up to 14,000 feet at one point, and finally landed 6000 feet lower than the launch site!" Chris Wood has had so many interesting flights, he had to think for ages until deciding the flight that sneaks into first place is a flight over the Alps back in 2006 from Dobbiaco in Italy to Munich in Germany. He remembers the excitement as “En route we had planes flying under us into Innsbruck, Austria and we cut out 150 miles of our road journey home, but unfortunately not for the chase crew!” Damon Bridger’s most interesting flight was one he did with Blind Date in Italy, he said it was particularly memorable as the couple he flew ended up getting married! They were only one of three couples to ever get hitched from the show so it really must have been something special. Des Bimson chose his most memorable ballooning experience as the four hour flight over the Swiss Alps, he said “It was one of those days where the conditions were perfect, the views across the Alps were stunning’. Russell Collins has a rather sentimental memory of flying his family and close friends across the channel from England to France in 2011. He said “The flight, as well as being conducted in fantastic conditions, marked a defining moment in a progression from a childhood desire to fly balloons to the long awaited reality of flying my nearest and dearest across the channel personally in my hot air balloon. It was special to share such a flight with my passengers that day. The flight was also part of a world record breaking mass balloon crossing of the channel which raised good money for various charities. A fine day.” © Licensed to London News Pictures. 12/08/2011. Bristol, UK. The Hot Air Balloon MAss Ascent on day two of the 2011 Bristol Balloon Fiesta today (12/08/2011) in which over 60 hot air balloons take off at the same time over Bristol. Photo credit: Ben Cawthra/LNP Experienced pilot Mark Simmons(also known as Nobby!) found it hard to choose just one flight as he has flown over 2500 times. He couldn’t pick the one flight but he managed to pin do wn to two, one recent memorable flight on Christmas Day in 2011 – his first ever flight on Christmas. The flight took place over the Temples of Bagan in Burma and he remembered the overwhelming heat of 30 degrees at 6am! The second flight was flying Beverley Knight at Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2011. “She did an amazing acoustic set at 1000ft high, her voice echoed inside the balloon and sounded great.” Rebecca Cains told us her most memorable flight was definitely over the Palmyra in Syria which is located in an oasis just outside Damascus. She recalled “The ancient ruins of the Arabic city provided the most amazing views from the balloon.” You too can experience a flight with one of our fantastic pilots and create a ballooning memory of your own. If you’ve already flown with us and want to share your experience, visit our facebook page as we’d love to hear your story!