Question: What’s the link between two different hot air balloon flights that launched from the same country estate 18 years apart?

Answer: Brian Hardy, a grandfather from Leicestershire, was a passenger on both.

Brian enjoyed his first experience with Virgin Balloon Flights from Stanford Hall in Lutterworth back in 1997.

He then returned to the same location this year (2015) to fly once more with his son Stephen and daughter-in-law Karren.

The couple invited Brian to join them on their flight after discovering how much he had enjoyed his first trip 18 years earlier.

Brian helps pack away the balloon after his second flight, 18 years after his first.

“Stephen bought two flights initially as a present for me for our first wedding anniversary,” said Karren.

“We knew Brian had done one before and absolutely loved it so we asked if he wanted to come along with us this time and bought an extra ticket.”

Brian said his first flight on 26th May 1997 was “the best thing he had ever done”.

“And the second time around was fantastic too. It’s just magic, that’s the only way I can describe it,” he said.

“My first flight was a 50th birthday present from my wife Peggy and we got up to about 2,500 feet. The pilot back then was a chap called David Fisher, I think.

“This time around we got up almost twice as high, to 4,000 feet, with our pilot Pete.

“We actually flew in more or less the same direction as last time, from Stanford Hall and across the A14 into Northamptonshire.“One thing I saw this time that definitely wasn’t there 18 years ago was all the road works as we crossed the A14.”

Brian, now aged 68, said he would recommend a balloon flight to anyone able to take one.“I’m not that keen on heights and being up a ladder but it’s not the same feeling at all when you’re up in a balloon,” he said.

“I’d recommend it to anyone who was able to do it.”

Karren said that she and Stephen also enjoyed their flight, despite several cancellations due to the weather, and that it had been worth the wait.

“Although it is frustrating, the weather is out of anyone’s hands and we knew the cancellations were for our safety,” she added.

“I also couldn’t fly while I was pregnant with our son Joshua so in total it did take us about three years to get into the air.

“But it was absolutely fantastic and definitely worth the wait.”

Brian is not the only Virgin Balloon Flights passenger to return for more than one flight.

Frequent flyers Toni Wadman and her dad Tony are looking forward to their ninth trip this summer, having first flown with us back in September 2009.