Bristol, UK China Central Television (CCTV) – The 37th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta has attracted thousands of visitors to the British city to marvel at a variety of colorful hot air balloons flying over the sky.
The festival, which started on Thursday and is now the biggest hot air balloon event in Europe, has seen participation numbers grow from its humble start 37 years ago.
As it is quite complicated to operate a balloon, only a few thousand people in the world have been licensed as hot air balloon pilots. The United Kingdom alone has nearly 3,000 qualified pilots.
Among them is Joe Gates with Lindstrand Hot Air Balloons Ltd., a company that is well-known in the industry for its advanced hot air balloon production technology. The company’s founder, Per Lindstrand, is known throughout the world for successfully completing hot air balloon flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in 1987 and 1990, respectively, with English businessman Richard Branson.
“We actually have no way to control where we’re going because we’re going with the wind. The only control we have is up and down. But the wind direction will change depending on how high we are. So for down low on the ground we might go off to this way. If we go up higher, we’ll start going off to the right. As a pilot, we’d like to keep an eye on what the other balloons are doing, which way they’re going. We’ll look out for smokestacks, this type of thing to gauge what the winds are doing at which heights. It’s bit like three-dimensional sailing in that way,” said Gates.
Gates mentioned that there is occasionally a hot air balloon meet in Hong Kong, but the conditions in China’s special administrative region are not suitable for flying.
“It’s a very challenging flying area, and you have to have a lot of experience to fly,” said Gates, adding that the mountains, forests and ocean around Hong Kong create barriers.
“We’d like to have long, flat, open areas where we can land,” he said.
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