When your office is a basket in the sky

What happens when you swap your high-powered job in the city for an office in a wicker basket 2,000 feet in the air? Two of Virgin Balloon Flights ace pilots did just that, swapping a desk for the freedom of the sky...

Pilot Lindsay Muir

Lindsay worked as a biochemist after leaving university, before realising she was "in completely the wrong job". So when the commercial ballooning licence was introduced in 1991, she quit her job in research to become a full-time pilot.

What are the best aspects of having a balloon basket as an office?

The view is constantly changing and every flight is a magical mystery tour. On some days the view is just so stunning (even after 30 years) that even I have to get my camera out and take pictures.

Do you prefer working outdoors to indoors?

I have always preferred working outdoors. Before I gave up my ‘real’ job to become a full time balloon pilot, if I went away for the weekend ballooning, on the Monday morning everyone could tell what I had been doing by the smile on my face.

Does this working environment present you with many challenges?

The most challenging aspect of working outside is dealing with and predicting the weather. Even over a four-hour time period the weather can change dramatically, sometime for the better and sometimes for the worst.

What's the best view you've ever had from your balloon basket?

That’s a really hard one as I have had some fantastic flights over the years: flying over the snow covered Alps, flying over the almost lunar looking landscape of Cappadocia (Turkey), my very first flight out of Bath University, flying off the World Island in Dubai.

Tell us about something unexpected or amusing that happened on one of your flights.

I think it has to be when I flew off the World Island in Dubai in December 2015. We were told by one of the pilots at the event that the organisers were expecting us to land at the Palm Drop Zone at the end of the closing ceremony for the World Air Games that had just finished. As the wind was blowing in completely the wrong direction, and this potential landing area was very small, we all thought that this was just a joke.

However, about 50 per cent of the balloons that took off did manage to land on the drop zone. It took an enormous amount of concentration and skill to be able to achieve this and I was over the moon to be one of the few that not only manage to take off in very windy conditions but also land on the runway of the of the drop zone.  It is now the most exhilarating balloon flight I have ever done since I started flying in 1983.

Pilot Damon Bridger

Damon worked in contracts management before he realised his heart lay in what until then had only been a hobby - flying hot air balloons.

What are the best aspects of having a balloon basket as an office?

I get to see the world from where the gods live.

Do you prefer working outdoors to indoors?

I only work when the weather is good and being outside when it’s sunny and warm must be everyone's dream.

Does this working environment present you with any challenges?

The biggest challenge is the English weather, especially as the summer weather patterns have changed over the last 22 years that I've been flying, very unpredictable.

What’s the best view you have ever had from your balloon basket?

Dropping 12 freefall parachutists over the Swiss Alps. The backdrop was spectacular, with the admiration of the initial ‘jump’ of 12 ‘nutcases’ (because who in their right mind would jump out of a perfectly good aircraft!)

Tell us about something unexpected or amusing that happened on one of your flights.

On a flight from Crowborough we had an official photographer on the ground taking photos. We climbed to 1,500 feet when I noticed a number of aircraft coming towards us. As they approached they split into two group either side of the balloon and turned on smoke, I then realised that they were the red arrows!

They passed us quite close either side and then reformed. I asked if anyone in the basket had taken any photos, the answer was no, as it was to quick for them and even though I informed them of who was approaching. When we landed I was sure the photographer had taken some from the ground, but no as he had put his camera away! Never mind, I've still got the memory. We've also been ‘buzzed’ by a WW2 Lancaster before and the only remaining flying Blenheim.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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