LIGHTER THAN AIR: Australian Ballooning History - Aug 24, 2021

LIGHTER THAN AIR: Australian Ballooning History

I have always been great fan of History – it was my favourite subject at school, and I always find myself gravitating towards literature based on events and exploits of days gone by. In many ways this appreciation of the deeds of remarkable pioneers and fearless adventurers has inspired me to travel and to also push myself onwards into the unchartered waters of discovery within myself.

As we busily go through our day-to-day life, we tend not to consider that our time on this planet may also one day be part of history. It is only until a dedicated documenter of history comes along with a sense of all that has occurred or achieved over time, that all the slow incremental steps of a long journey to where we are now is captured.

In this respect I have upmost respect for historians. The arduous task of forensic research, interviews, and collating information with the ability to then write all this down in a chronological and informative manner is a pain staking exercise that can only be driven by passion for the subject.

It is with this introduction that I bring you to the subject of this article, which is Helene Rogers excellent book on the History of Ballooning in Australia. I first met Helene Rogers when I arrived in Victoria to manage the balloon operations in Benalla in 1989. Helene was one of the passionate members of the Balloon Association of Victoria who used attend the club regular meetings in Violet Town. Although never a pilot, Helene immersed herself into the romantism and comradery of the little ballooning world as an outdoor social activity. After years of listening to many stories (some quite tall) orated over glasses of champagne, describing past exploits and feats of daring courage, she decided to begin the process of separating fact from fiction to document a history of aerostation in this country.


LIGHTER THAN AIR: Australian Ballooning History


After years of speaking with Helene regarding the publishing of her research, I am extremely proud and delighted that in June this year Helene’s book on our country's ballooning history was finally launched at the Global Ballooning office to a small audience of enthusiasts and supporters. As you may well imagine, the ability to publish a book on such a niche subject with only a small fraternity of participants, has been a complete labour of love given the costly nature of the exercise.

I was lucky enough to be presented with one of the first additions of Helene’s Book and avidly devoured the history over a couple of days, completely enthralled by the daring of the early aeronauts and even the boldness of balloonists that are still in our ranks today. I bet you did not know that Kay Turnbull was the first Australian to hold a ballooning licence or that the first modern day hot air balloon to free fly in NSW was held together by tape. It is a remarkable story that I found astounding given the actual amount of ballooning that occurred in this country prior to federation.

More importantly this book documents the early work of people who have shaped our sport today. The work of individuals like Peter Vizzard, Tony Norton, the Kavanagh brothers, Terry McCormack, and many more who poured their energies into developing and legitimising ballooning as an aviation activity in this country. Their place in history is now written and thoroughly well deserved.


LIGHTER THAN AIR: Australian Ballooning History


I would encourage any of you who are involved or interested in this amazing world of ballooning to purchase a copy of Helene’s Rogers book, as I believe it is important to know from where we came and most importantly to support the effort of someone who has taken the time to provide a single reference point to all that has come before.

I look forward to the person who will next fill Helene’s shoes in documenting this continuing history – I certainly would like to see how history judges this last 30 years of modern aerostation.


Purchase the book from HERE


by Kiff Saunders

LIGHTER THAN AIR: Australian Ballooning History

View all the blog posts