The marriage of luxury and adventure has always been at the forefront of the Superyacht experience. Now a new dimension has been added – Hot Air Balloons. British company Global Compass Marine (GCM), has spent two years developing this into a reality.
In this article, we will delve into the details of operating hot air balloons onboard Superyachts, covering how they can be used, aspects such as storage, training, operations manual and Flag, risk assessments, insurance, operating procedures, and the role of commercial hot air balloon pilots.
How can Hot Air Balloons be used onboard?
Tethered Flight on Deck:
• Tethering the balloon on deck in the daytime.
• Nighttime tethered flights offer a stunning visual display, illuminating the surrounding area like a giant lightbulb.
Free Flight from Deck and Landing back Onboard (Perfect Weather Conditions):
• Conducting free flights from the yacht’s deck and safely landing back onboard in perfect weather conditions only.
Free Flight from the Deck and Landing Onshore:
• Conducting free flights from the yacht to land inland.
• The balloon takes off from the yacht upwind of the flight path. The retrieve team is waiting for the balloon and escorts guests and equipment back to the yacht.
Land-Based Traditional Balloon Flights Aligned to the Yacht’s Itinerary:
• Coordinating balloon flights that align with the yacht’s itinerary, providing guests with an opportunity to fly over scenic locations like French Chateaux, Vineyards, historical landmarks, and other attractions globally. Having the balloon onboard allows guests to use the balloon at pre-selected launch sites.
Special Events, VIP and Media Flights:
• Utilising the branded balloon for special events, such as yacht shows to provide VIP and press flights or tethers, gaining impressive media coverage.
• Using the balloon to fly guests to the owner’s private homes or other exclusive locations Globally.
Storage and Equipment:
To integrate hot air balloons onto Superyachts GCM has designed specialised equipment and storage solutions. The traditional wicker basket has been replaced with a more versatile, collapsible, and transportable basket made from aircraft-specific fabric. This allows for easy dismantling and transportation of the balloon equipment by tender to and from shore, and efficient storage below deck with minimal space requirements. A gas storage system has also been designed for safe storage of LPG.
Training and Operations Manual:
The operation of hot air balloons onboard Superyachts necessitates comprehensive training and adherence to a meticulously written operations manual. A training program has been designed to ensure that the captain, crew, and pilots are all well-versed in the unique dynamics of ballooning from a Superyacht. An operations manual is provided and agreed upon with the captain, management company and flag, outlining procedures, safety protocols, and guidelines for smooth and safe operations.
Risk Assessments and Insurance:
Safety is of paramount importance in any ballooning venture. GCM, the Captain and crew conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement appropriate measures to mitigate risks again approved by Management and Flag. Moreover, comprehensive insurance coverage is provided to safeguard against unforeseen circumstances, ensuring a safe and secure ballooning experience for all involved.
Weather plays a crucial role in hot air ballooning, making each flight weather-dependent. GCM meticulously plans each flight, in coordination with the yacht’s captain and the designated pilot. If weather conditions permit, the balloon can ascend thousands of feet in the air, with the yacht positioning itself for a landing directly back on the deck or with the aid of a tender. An inflatable swim platform has been designed for yachts lacking sufficient space, allowing for inflation and deflation.
Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilots and Crew
Selecting the right commercial balloon pilot is crucial to the success of the venture. GCM carefully selects experienced commercial balloon pilots who possess the expertise to navigate this unique scenario and interact confidently with guests. A dedicated pilot and crew are on call, ready to fly guests to extraordinary destinations Worldwide.
There are two options for hot air balloons. If the yacht has the correct amount of space the balloon can be inflated and used onboard. For yachts that don’t have the space, the balloon can simply be stored onboard and used wherever the yacht’s itinerary allows.
Option 1: On-Deck or Helideck Inflation:
Yachts with sufficient space, particularly on their deck or helideck, can opt for this option. This would ideally suit support vessels or explorer yachts. In this scenario, a balloon can be inflated and deployed directly on the yacht’s deck or helideck when needed. This setup uses the yacht as a mobile launch and landing site. Some additional equipment may be needed such as specially designed outriggers.
Option 2: Yachts with limited space:
For yachts with limited space, this option involves having a complete hot air balloon stored onboard to be used wherever the yacht’s itinerary takes it. Taking guests on an exclusive traditional flight over the World’s most beautiful wonders and destinations.
With a focus on safety, meticulous planning, and an experienced team, hot air balloons can now be used onboard operational superyachts! Contact Managing Director Peter Bird, has years of experience within the Superyacht industry and is a seasoned commercial hot-air balloon pilot.
Meet the Author: Peter Bird
Peter took his first balloon flight back in 1991 and has loved it ever since. He gained his private then commercial pilot licenses back in the 90s and went onto fly advertising balloons for brands like Virgin, BBC Globe, Lloyds Bank and Sonic the Hedgehog across the World. Nowadays Peter runs GCM (Global Compass Marine Ltd) a specialist supplier within the Superyacht Industry. GCM conduct everything from refit works to the supply of toys and specialist parts.
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