Balloon pilots take to the skies as Canberra’s annual Balloon Spectacular begins
A fleet of hot air balloons took flight over the nation’s capital today for the start of the annual balloon show, celebrating Canberra’s 109th birthday.
The festival features balloons from across Australia and overseas, with this year’s favorite probably being Tico the sloth, which has charmed adults and children alike.
Local balloon pilot Craig Farrell flew Tico today in Canberra and said he’s taken the sloth around the world.
“The Sloth is one of five shapes owned by my good friends from upstate New York, Todd and Scott Monahan, and they granted me the privilege to fly their plane all over the world.”
Mr Farrell said Canberra was one of his best places for ballooning and it was a unique experience to soar over the nation’s capital.
“Each location has its own pros and cons,” he said.
“Canberra’s huge advantage is the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin, but at the same time it’s a huge area that we can’t land on.
“It is highly unusual to fly over a capital city anywhere in the world, let alone to have an event like this with so many private and commercial pilots.
“That’s one of the reasons I put Canberra in the top three, if not number one, but it’s a tough act when you’re comparing so many different countries – India, Mexico, China, India, ‘Saudi Arabia.”
Australia’s first female hot air balloon pilot, Ruth Wilson, who has been flying for 47 years, is an event official and helped organize the balloons on the ground this morning.
For her, Canberra is the best place in Australia to fly.
“I lived here and worked at ANU for six, seven years and flew in every weekend with friends,” she said.
“It offers the lake, the Brindabellas, the city and also the magnificent Parliament.
“As a pilot in this country, Canberra is my favorite place to fly.”
Ms Wilson said she was delighted to see more women in hot air ballooning after being a pioneer in the sport for so long.
“I was the first [woman]and the first national champion and then I went on the world stage, being the only woman [among] 99 men, across the world,” she said.
“I never saw the genre because the passion was so strong and I was born to fly balls, but I loved seeing how more recently women are starting to get involved in the sport.”
Ms Wilson said today’s turnout was the largest she had seen in the history of the Balloon Spectacular.
“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve seen on the first day of the festival since we started it, [and] I was one of the first people to start it – in 1988, I think it was,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to see everyone going out, and I guess after COVID people just want to go out and be free.