Some of the best hot air balloon pilots from around Australia and the globe will be in Northam to contest the National Ballooning Championships.
The Avon Valley town is buzzing with anticipation and preparing for the 30 pilots, their support crew and of course their beautiful balloons to be fired up and heading skywards.
Event Manager and hot air balloon pilot Donna Tasker said the National Ballooning Championships would decide which pilots would gain a place to represent Australia in the World Championships in Saga, Japan in 2016.
“The competition will intensely test the skillfulness and expertise of the pilots in maneuvering their balloons towards targets and goals in and around Northam in the Avon Valley over a 40km course.
“Pilots achieve good results using a variation of winds at different altitudes to fly in the direction of a goal and accurately approach the target” she said.
“Because wind conditions will be different each day, competition tasks will be sent each morning which means that the course and the best viewing spots might change each day.”
- Pilots will be recognisable from their distinctive balloon designs and the pilots to watch are:
- Current Women’s World Hot Air Balloon Champion Nicola Scaife (NSW)
- Five-time Australian champion Paul Gibbs (NSW)
- 2014 Australian Champion Matthew Scaife (NSW)
- Two-time Chinese national champion Yongjun Li
- Two-time Australian Hot Air Ballooning Champion Thomas Dattler (NSW)
- Nigel Black (Hong Kong) who has competed in past international Masters competitions
Celebrations commence on Saturday night (29 August) with the Balloon Glow and Fiesta from 4pm to 8pm at the Henry Street Oval in Northam. At about 6pm the balloons will be inflated and glowing with the light of their burners so that people can get up close and see some of the colourful balloons that will be competing in the Championships. There will be entertainment, food and a fantastic atmosphere.
Balloons will have flight practice on Saturday and Sunday (29 and 30 August) and competition flights will be scheduled twice a day from Monday 31 August to Friday 4 September, weather permitting.Saturday 5 September is a reserve competition day and the exciting ‘Key Grab’ at first light at Northam Aero Club. Sunday 6 September will be a non-competitive flying day.Donna recommended that spectators check the event’s Facebook page first thing in the morning each day to get the latest information.”We strongly recommend spectators check our Facebook page to see where we will be flying each day. The best idea is for people to start at the Northam Aero Club at Withers Street Northam to be directed from there to where balloons will take off from that day. Morning flights will be from approximately 6.30am to 9am each day. It will be spectacular so we encourage people to come and see the balloons in action.”
A number of community events including exhibitions, expos and performances are being held around the Championships, making it a fantastic time to visit Northam and the Avon Valley.
We speak with event organiser and pilot Donna Tasker, to find out more about the championships and the unique experience of being in a hot air balloon.