Nick Brau has worked with Global Ballooning Australia for 12 years now.
In 2002 Nick moved to Melbourne, Australia, on a contract to fly over the city with its high rise buildings and close to 4 million residents.
By 2008 Nick accrued 2000 hours flying both conventional and special shaped balloons. He has unusual experience in that a very high ratio of his flying hours have been flown inside airport controlled zones and, due to geographical or meteorological reasons, in technically difficult areas.
On a more personal level, Nick answered a few questions surrounding his ballooning experiences…
How did you learn about the possibilities of being a balloon pilot as your career path?
I was going to take up hang gliding when I discovered ballooning and thought…”wait a minute, I can actually WORK with balloons and make it my profession”.
Where did you start training and how long did it take for you to become a qualified balloon pilot?
Trained in Bath (UK) for my Private Pilot’s Licence, that just took me a couple of months of good weather and early morning starts; flying some days and crewing for a ballooning company other days.
How intensive is the training?
The Private Pilot’s Licence (a Certificate in Australia) is not “intensive”, it can be quite fun and I found it fascinating. You do, though, have to learn to be patient as you have to wait for the weather to be ideal for learning. Ballooning has a lot to do with being able to learn to make the decision of when one can fly and when not. It is much more learning to understand nature and the winds rather than the actual technical side of inflating a balloon and making it float, which is fairly easy. I always say…if someone is able to be a good driver on the roads, you can learn to fly a balloon properly.
Which areas/cities have you flown over around the world?
England, Scotland, Wales, Austria, France, Spain, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.
What is the strangest thing you have flown over?
People’s back yards in Mexico.
What is the funniest story whilst ballooning?
There are two stories - once, in Argentina, I was coming down to land when I suddenly realised (because I saw them!) that I was going to touch down in the lion enclosure of an open zoo. I obviously flew along further to land in a safer place.
In Mexico, on a fast “drag” landing in the dense, jungle like, vegetation, I scooped up a kind of iguana which ended up, terrified, trying to scramble up my passenger’s legs and out of the basket. I thought my passenger was shrieking because he had enjoyed the landing!
Why do you love your job?
I love flying
What advice/recommendations would you give to people wanting to become a balloon pilot?
To understand that the flying is only a small part of what is involved in ballooning; like in any job, there will be plenty of other stuff you have to be happy to deal with. It is an aviation career and it is all regulated, so compliance with the norms is something you have to understand fully.
by Erin Tucci