For most people, a hot air balloon flight is a once in a lifetime experience.
But father and daughter duo Tony and Toni Wadman are anything but virgins when it comes to taking to the skies, as they look forward to their ninth trip this summer.
Since the moment they took their first flight back in September 2009, they were hooked and have already flown seven more times with Virgin Balloon Flights.
As part of our ongoing series celebrating Superhero Dads this Father’s Day, we talked to Toni about what it means to share something so special with her beloved pops.
It all started with Tony’s 65th birthday.
Both Toni and her dad had regularly seen our hot air balloons flying over their home town and both had said it was something they would love to do.
“We both kept saying it must be an amazing experience and having lived in the area for more than 40 years, we wanted to see our town from above,” said Toni.
“When dad was 65 in 2009, our family decided to buy him a flight and I went along with him.
“That’s when our ballooning adventures started as after that first flight, we just wanted to go again.”
Tony is now 71, while Toni is 44 and neither of them have plans to stop flying anytime soon.
An unforgettable experience
Even though they have flown from the same launch site each time – the beautiful Grimsthorpe Castle – no one trip has been exactly the same.
“Our first flight took us to Surfleet, near Spalding and we had such amazing views of the countryside, villages, roads etc. We could even see The Wash and got to fly up through the clouds – it was absolutely stunning. We’ve seen many well-known landmarks and lots of different wildlife, from deer to birds and even hares. Each flight we have done has been different. You don’t know where you will be heading, what you will see or what kind of landing you will have.“That’s all part of the big adventure in the big red balloon!
“We have flown in both the mornings and evenings and even though morning flights mean an early start, it’s well worth it.”
Although each flight has been memorable in its own right, Tony and his daughter still look back on their first ever time with fondness.
“On the way back down through the clouds, our pilot said if we looked carefully, we would see a halo around the basket and that we were some of the few people to have seen that.”
Six of their eight flights have been just the two of them, although Tony’s wife did join them on one occasion after winning two flight vouchers in a competition.
“It’s nice that dad and me found something we like doing so much together,” added Toni.
“It’s so nice to spend a few hours together away from the stresses of work.
“My dad has always been there for me and the family through life’s ups and downs, giving me advice and support. He’s always wanted me to succeed in what I do.
“These might be little things but he’s my dad and I think the world of him.”
Befriending the pilots
Toni and her dad have flown so often during the past five years that they’ve got to know our pilots quite well.
“We’ve flown with Rebecca twice so far and she is a brilliant, competent pilot.
“She’s a true professional and we’re looking forward to many more flights with her,” said Toni.
“It’s nice to chat with her about our flights and have a catch up hearing about other flights she has done.”
Even when they are not booked to fly themselves, Tony and Toni have been known to stop by the launch site to take photos and just say hello to their friendly pilot.
Don’t let nerves hold you back
They have this bit of advice for anyone thinking of taking a hot air balloon flight but find nerves are holding them back.
“There is nothing to be nervous of at all. Listen to the pilot and ground crew before the flight, take part in setting up the balloon and then just enjoy the flight and views.
“You will definitely enjoy the experience and remember to take a camera so you can look back on your adventure in the sky.
“We’ve met some lovely passengers of all ages during our flights, some local, others who have come from afar and have even exchanged contact details and photos with a few.
“There was one lady we met who was doing her first flight at 90!
“After a flight it is always so nice to hear people say how amazing it was and they would think about doing it again, even though they were nervous beforehand.”
This Father’s Day, Virgin Balloon Flights wants to help your superhero dad really fly.
For more information, visit http://www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/ or call us on 01952 212750.