Get To Know Aerosaurus Balloons Crew Members

26th May 2021    News

At Aerosaurus Balloons, we have a tight-knit ballooning team and love spending time with each other! We know each other pretty well, but we thought it might be nice for you to gain an insight into some of the people that make up our wonderful crew team. In this article, we provide you with the opportunity to get to know crew members of Aerosaurus Balloons a little better. We’ve put a series of questions to crew members Chris and Sam; their responses are in and we are excited to share them with you!

How long have you been in the ballooning industry?

Chris: “I started crewing for my brother in law in about 2014 on a small privateer team, attending the Balloon Fiesta in Bristol. Began crewing with Aerosaurus and Bailey in the 2018 season.”

Sam: “My first flight as a passenger was on a commercial flight in 2008, then initial crewing experience was with the smaller ‘Winnie The Pooh’ balloon in 2016 at Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Since then, I have also been a crew member for privateer ‘Dreamweaver’ at Bristol and part of the Aerosaurus team for the last three seasons, flying around the glorious countryside of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.”

Where is the best place you’ve flown over?

clifton suspension bridge

Chris: “Clifton Suspension Bridge is always special but also ancient monuments like Stonehenge and Avebury Rings.”

Sam: “The Glastonbury Festival site! Landing was especially fun with an impromptu photo shoot with all passengers in front of the pyramid stage, which is permanently in-situ.”

Which season do you like flying in the most?

Chris: “Early spring is the best for me, I like the colder crisp mornings.”

Sam: “I love the end of the ballooning season as we head into autumn, with the long dusk, a rich patchwork appears with fiery reds and bright orange highlights.”

fields in autumn

What’s your favourite hot air balloon related film or TV show?

Chris: “I can’t really think of any!”

Sam: “The airship in the film of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is absolutely epic.”

Who’s the most famous guest you’ve flown with?

Chris: “Carol Kirkwood – BBC Weather Reporter – boy can she talk! Also a cub reporter with Heart Radio doing a live twitter feed managed to drop her phone over the golf course at Bristol!”

Sam: “Hmmm… no one I’ve recognised yet, let’s see what adventures this season has in store.”

What’s the most number of balloon flights you have been on in one day?

Aerosaurus Balloons, South West Flights

Chris: “Fully launched and retrieved three, exhausting. I have crewed multiple launches at the Fiestas where we release any number of balloons at once (imagine a breezy Ashton Court during the Bristol Balloon Fiesta). It’s a case of crews helping one another and trading favours to get safe launches.”

Sam: “A steady two, just enough time for a cheeky siesta between dawn and dusk flights.”

How long did it take you to become a crew member?

Chris: “I was hooked immediately, enjoyed the technical challenge, noise, excitement etc – took it upon myself to learn all I could about ballooning prior to my first crewing experience. So I managed to start immediately.”

Sam: “I started off just watching, everyone is so supportive and encouraging. It didn’t take many flights before I felt confident in the process of what needs to be done for a safe launch and efficient retrieve; so that everyone gets to enjoy the flight.”

Which South West area or attraction do you like taking in the most from above?

avebury rings

Chris: “Clifton Suspension Bridge is always special but also ancient monuments like Stonehenge and Avebury Rings.”

Sam: “The Glastonbury Festival site! Landing was especially fun with an impromptu photo shoot with all passengers in front of the pyramid stage, which is permanently in-situ.”

Have you ever flown at Bristol Balloon Fiesta and, if so, what was it like?

Chris: “Bonkers – you feel a little like a rock star, with a huge crowd cheering the launch, people everywhere! The camaraderie of the crews is great and the organisation both on the flying and hospitality side are excellent. Bristol people are proud of their free to attend event and the whole city buzzes with excitement. Even most of the local landowners are welcoming!”

Sam: “Yes, a fabulous spectacle to watch as the many balloons inflate around each other on a mass launch. A dazzling amount of other things to watch, do and scrumptious treats to eat. The nighttime glows are always thrilling especially with the music and fireworks. Chris and I got engaged at the Bristol Fiesta, so it has an extra special place in our hearts.”

Which Balloon Festival would you most like to experience?

Chris: “Albuquerque – it looks like a total rush. Also, some of Asian festivals look like a surreal experience.”

albuquerque balloon rides

Sam: “Ooh! There would have to be snowy mountains and glaciers, love that spectacular dramatic landscape.”

What advice or words of encouragement would you give to those aspiring to join the ballooning industry?

Chris: “There are a few things that I would advise:

  1. Learn patience – spend time looking at weather, how winds and therms work. We spend a lot of time looking at the sky scratching our chins.
  2. Take time to learn from every experience (different pilots, kit, regions, crew etc.) there’s always stuff to pick up on – don’t just rely on tech!
  3. The social aspects of ballooning are really important. So take the time to get to know people, be ready to support them if needed and they will be ready to support you.”

Sam: “What Chris said!”

In your opinion, why should someone experience ballooning at least once in their lifetime?

Chris: “Most I’ve spoken to have a favourite altitude, when the experience of flight hits them; for me it’s 2500ft+ where you can see the curvature of the earth, the supersonic layer is all brilliant white above you, the dirty layer is below you, you can hear activity on the ground, you’re just under a bag of air in a basket – reminds me that no matter how important you think you are we are a relatively insignificant player in the whole picture.”

Sam: “It is the closest thing to that dream state when you are flying, there is a surreal stillness as you are travelling with the wind so you don’t feel any breeze at all. It is like you are suspended in time and space. Everyone after a flight has an air of gently blissed out euphoria.”

In your role, what does a typical day look like?

Blowing Up The Balloon

Chris: “A typical day for me looks like:

  • The day starts the night before with a ‘go’ for the morning’s flight
  • Meet crew and check kit – a very unsociable hour (05:00hrs or so)
  • Meet public at the launch site, safety briefs, manifest checks etc – answering questions from excited and nervous passengers
  • Pre-Launch & Launch drills complete, everyone safely airborne – big sigh of relief
  • Track flight on App, visually and on the radio. Follow the flight safely
  • Upon landing, contact landowner for permission to retrieve and gain access to the field
  • Deflate and pack down drills executed safely
  • Manage excited and relieved passengers safely, landing celebrations (champagne or juice for passengers)
  • Listen to stories and experiences on the drive back to passenger’s vehicles
  • Return kit to home, refuel and prepare for evening flight

Late afternoon – repeat above… until an unsociable late hour!”

Sam: “Watching the weather forecast change, especially the wind strength and direction, hoping for those magical low numbers. On a morning flight, there is usually a wake up alarm set for 3:30am, a quick check of the Land Rover, trailer, straps and basket before we leave the yard to meet passengers for 5.30am. The bonus of being around at this time of day is, it is just us and the birds enjoying the beautiful colours of the sunrise. Meeting our excited passengers for the first time, the pilot takes them through a safety briefing, then the fun begins, laying out the envelope, which is the fabric part of the balloon, where we could inflate with fans ready for the pilot to turn on the burners for the big moment as it becomes upright.

“Most passengers don’t even realise they have left the ground because the launch is so gentle, slowly floating up and waving goodbye, we get the Land Rovers ready to follow and retrieve wherever the wind takes them. Upon landing, we get to share champagne and orange juice with the passengers, have fun packing the balloon away, and the journey back with them is lovely, hearing about all of their favourite moments of the flight. Everything is checked and double checked back at the yard and tucked away ready for the next time the weather is right for the next adventure.”

Aside from ballooning, what are your hobbies or interests?

horse and carriage

Chris: “We travel both for work and pleasure – so are always on the road or planning to be. Music and Festivals also play a large part in what we do, we also have a horse and carriage to work with. It’s about enjoying experiences and doing what we enjoy – crewing for Aerosaurus Balloons gives us some of that opportunity, if we work hard and smart it gives us opportunities and adventures – in return we can help make someone’s day, tick off the bucket list or at least have an amazing experience.”

Sam: “I love helping to organise live music events and playing the violin at quirky little venues, barn dances and the occasional big stage. Chris and I are currently helping to train a horse to take a carriage, which is fabulously challenging and rewarding. I also run a community project in Somerset called The Honesty Jar and enjoy putting crews together to run areas for families at some local festivals, such as Tolpuddle Martyrs, many folk festivals and the Green Gathering.”

What’s your favourite snack and/or meal?

Chris: “Full English breakfast – which is handy because we do a great deal of waiting around in the mornings waiting for weather!”

Sam: “It has to be hummus – so versatile and adds extra flavour and depth, easy to grab a quick snack while we are rushing around on crazy missions. Chris often calls me the Hummus Hoover!”

If you could relocate to anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Chris: “Continue this nomadic existence but probably settle in New Zealand.”

lake wakatipi queenstown

Sam: “Home is where you make it, as long as you are kind to people I have found that you’ll be made welcome the world over. No idea where my favourite spot is yet, it’s fun exploring, ask me again in another 40 years.”

What’s the best thing about working at Aerosaurus Balloons?

Chris: “It’s a difficult business, dependent largely on the weather, with most expense up front, a frightening business model! Jo & Clive manage to keep a culture of calm and professionalism, even when other factors conspire against it (Covid, weather etc). They ensure that safety is paramount and never compromised, which as crew, is very comforting.

“The passengers are also ensured a wonderful experience as the crew and pilots have flexibility and experience to make decisions at an operational level, with the confidence that they do so with the full support of Clive, Jo & the rest of the team. I think it’s the family atmosphere and calm professionalism that keeps me doing this daft job!”

Sam: “It is fabulous to work on a large commercial balloon, as we are blessed with the opportunity to help so many delighted people achieve their bucket list ambition of flying in a balloon.”

Aerosaurus Balloons – Balloon Rides In The South West

We hope that you’ve enjoyed gaining an insight into Sam and Chris, two of our crew members. Keep your eyes peeled for an insight into the life of an Aerosaurus Balloons pilot, an article that is coming soon! If you have any questions for our team in the meantime, whether it relates to our company or a balloon flight you’ve booked, please do not hesitate to contact us today.