Chief pilot and CEO, Kenneth, has flown passenger-carrying hot air balloons for nearly 30 years, racking up over 3000 hours, which makes him one of the most experienced balloon pilots in the world. Kenneth has been flying for Virgin Balloon Flights for ten years and pilots hot air balloon rides in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northants and Buckinghamshire.
Kenneth originally started hot air ballooning to fund his higher education back home in Sweden. He has flown balloons in Kenya, Sweden, U.S.A, Italy, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and England. His most memorable ballooning occasion was an incredible flight across Stansted Airport, when he actually received permission to fly across the runway, keeping 747's circling above.
Kenneth said: "It was one of the strangest flights of my career. Believe it or not, it was so quiet going across the run way, we could have heard a pin drop. The whole of air traffic control saluted and waved us by! The passengers thought it was marvellous, I have never had so many kisses after a flight in my life."
In January 2008, Kenneth probably topped that by flying a balloon above the Swiss Alps while hit singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner played a gig for Virgin Radio in the first recording of its kind.
Kenneth holds various hot air balloon licences including category A, B and C. He has competed in various world ballooning championships including 1981, 1983 and 1985. He is a C.A.A. (Civil Aviation Authority) examiner and instructor.
Kenneth is fluent in three European languages, German, English and Swedish. Outside of ballooning he lists his hobbies as golf, scuba diving, squash, exotic holidays and anything aviation.
As Chief Pilot Kenneth oversees the entire operation and is available to fly wherever a need arises anywhere in the UK.
Rebecca has a true adoration for the outdoors and has been a keen adventurer from a young age. In her own words she loves nothing more than "making people's dreams come true" by flying them in a hot air balloon.
Rebecca has been involved in ballooning for the last 13 years, and ran her own ballooning company before becoming a pilot for Virgin Balloon Flights. Now with over 500 flight hours under her belt, she's fast becoming one of the country's most experienced female pilots.
The other love in Rebecca's life (aside from hot air balloons and her daughter Robyn) is sailing. Along with others she set up a charity which enables underprivileged and disadvantaged children the chance to sail aboard "The Richard Langhorn" boat encouraging teamwork, trust and reliance.
Both sailing and ballooning have allowed Rebecca to see, sail and fly in some of the world's most amazing places including Europe, Syria, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and of course the UK. A year's backpacking in her early twenties also allowed her to explore China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"One of the things I love about ballooning is the sheer beauty of the views, I have been lucky to be able to explore so much of the world," says Rebecca.
"My most memorable balloon flight was most definitely over the Palmyra in Syria which is located in an oasis just outside Damascus. The ancient ruins of the Arabic city provided the most amazing views from the balloon."
Aside from being a mother, a pilot and a yacht master, Rebecca achieved a balloon "long jump" of 192 miles from Fishguard to Peterborough around six years ago, and plans to break some ballooning records in the future. So watch this space!
Make your dreams come true aboard Rebecca's hot air balloon from Grantham, Peterborough, Newark, Stamford, Nottingham or Rutland Water.
Russell first started flying hot air balloons in 2003 when he realised a long held ambition to become a balloon pilot. Since then ballooning has taken him to many places and countries including: New Zealand, Thailand, UAE, India, Italy, France, Austria, the Swiss Alps and indeed over much of our green and beautiful land in the UK.
A very memorable and proud moment in ballooning came from flying his family across the Channel in the 2011 World Record Breaking flight and Russell says seeing 50 balloons stretched out over the water from Dover to Calais was truly wonderful. Flying across the snow covered caps of the Swiss Alps has also been a stunning highlight for Russell who admits he absolutely loves ballooning:
"Each flight is different so balloon flying always remains interesting. I love pretty much every aspect of piloting balloons - the inflation, the roar of the burners, the outstanding views and indeed the very elemental nature of the flight itself. Balloon flying privileges you to see the beautiful countryside up-close and at a pace where you have time to enjoy it and take in the detail from above," he says.
"The job satisfaction gained from witnessing someone's balloon experience and seeing them beaming after their flight is hard to beat. I also really like the way a balloon flight leads you to arrive at some fantastic places, to meet all manner of interesting people and has a way of transcending boundaries, both social and geographical."
You can join Russell to enjoy a hot air balloon flight from Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire, Shipston-on-Stour in the lea of the Northern Cotswolds or Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.
Chris, who flies a Virgin hot air balloon over Yorkshire and the north east, decided to buy his first balloon in 1990. He contacted Cameron Balloons and agreed the design, colours and artwork, then suddenly remembered that he had never flown in one before!
He quickly booked a pleasure flight, just to make sure he actually liked flying before he blew all his savings on a balloon. Needless to say he loved it, and went on to attain his commercial rating in 1993.
Since then, Chris and his wife Linda have travelled to many countries to fly balloons, from inside the Arctic Circle to the Middle East. He has crossed the English Channel twice from England to France, and once from France to England.
He has flown a variety of balloons, including the 150ft tall "Bertie Basset" special shape. Chris says he has lots of memorable flights, but three particularly special memories stick out: flying over the Channel from France to England (landing behind the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone), taking off from a beach and flying over a rain-forest on the Caribbean Island of Antigua, and taking off from an altitude of 10,000 feet on the Dachstein glacier in Austria.
"There were about 12 balloons doing this early morning flight, and it took most of the previous afternoon to ferry all the kit up the mountain by cable-car, and out onto the snow field by piste-basher. It was a fantastic flight, we went up to 14,000 feet at one point, and finally landed 6000 feet lower than the launch site!" he says.
Join Chris on a hot air balloon ride over Yorkshire or the north east by choosing a flight voucher here.
Sportsman Peter is an absolute ballooning enthusiast and having started out as a Virgin Balloon Flights balloon crew he is now an experienced flyer providing hot air balloon rides over the Lake District.
Peter began flying balloons in Australia in 1999 working on a huge promotional frog balloon and since then has flown all over Europe and the UK. Peter spent a winter in Burma flying over an area of 2000 Buddhist temples with perfect blue skies every day.
"I have flown all over the Midlands in the UK and love flying in the gorgeous Lake District.
I love everything about my job. I'm a real enthusiast about ballooning and love the fact that every flight is different and we get to see the best times of the day from the best places." He says.
"I've worked for 5 years in the Peak District and on our adventures you get to see every corner of the countryside and discover places well off the beaten track. I believe there's nothing quite like ballooning and I love it when people shake my hand after a flight and tell me what a great time they had - it's a real buzz."
Peter was an International rugby player representing Holland in the 2nd Division 6 Nations which took him to World Cup qualifying matches in Georgia and South Korea. Now retired, he loves to play golf and keeps fit by walking Daisy the dog.
Join Peter on a hot air balloon ride over the Lake District by selecting a flight voucher here.
When photographer Celia Morley became a balloon pilot, her days behind the lens were over; now the subject of many snappers, Celia pilots balloons high above the British countryside.
After spending eight years as a school photographer, balloon crewing beckoned as a part time job in the summer of '96...
"I would photograph individuals, class groups, family groups, sports teams, staff and even staff pets. Budgies are not the best subjects but Labradors will take up any pose for the sniff of a ham sandwich! It was during this time that I first encountered Balloons, I would often sit in traffic on the M25 at silly o'clock and watch them just hanging in the air wondering how on earth people could do that!" Celia says.
Keen to drive the ground crew Land rovers off road, Celia helped crew balloons for a year before she flew as a passenger. "I only got in as ballast, had a go on the burners and that was it" her love for ballooning was born.
Celia gained her commercial pilot's licence and since then has flown balloons in numerous countries around the world including France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, America and of course the UK.
"There have been so many memorable flights: I've done two channel hops the first in 2005 and the second in 2011, had a Spitfire doing circuits around the balloon, flew a lady on her 98th birthday, flew in the Italian Alps, did a splash and dash in the Rio Grande, there are so many! Another favourite was a tether I piloted in Italy during a festival with three members of a brass band in the basket!"
When Celia's not in the clouds she's into motorbikes, traction engines, aeroplanes, old shiny cars and she also has a love of old buildings. Join her in the skies over the Scottish Borders or Lanarkshire on a Virgin Balloon Flight.
Born into a ballooning family, at just ten days old Gavin Chadwick encountered his first hot air balloon as the smallest member of a balloon retrieval crew. Just over three years later he was watching the world turn below the basket of a balloon from 3000 feet up with his dad Ian.
"I enjoyed many balloon flights during my younger years and by the age of 10 I had decided that I wanted to be a balloon pilot. Following many flights in Mondovi, Italy, I was piloting a balloon to a competent level by the age of 14 and at 15 I was able to count flying hours towards gaining my pilot's licence."
Four days after Gavin's 16th birthday he achieved his first solo flight. In accordance with aviation law he could not be awarded his Private Pilot's Licence until his 17th birthday, so on February 14th 2007 at the UK Civil Aviation Authority he was presented with his PPL certification and had achieved his lifelong ambition. Just two years later Gavin gained his commercial licence meaning he could take passengers to the skies to share his love of hot air ballooning.
Since then Gavin has flown passengers all over the UK as well as in Italy, Burma and France. You can join Gavin in one of our iconic red hot air balloons over numerous sites in the west midlands.
Ballooning has been a big part of Lawrie Ellis' life for over 25 years. For four of those years he crewed balloons before obtaining his balloon pilot's licence in 1992, later converting that to a commercial licence in 1996.
Logging over 1800 hours of flights, we're pleased to have Lawrie as part of the Virgin Balloon Flights team.
Since 2004, Lawrie has followed the birds south to Australia during the UK winter months, flying in places such as the capital city of Canberra and Cairns and near the Great Barrier Reef. International ballooning has also taken Lawrie to New Zealand, America, Ireland, France and Germany.
One of his most memorable flights was a channel hop to the Isle of Wight from Southampton. Quite a different way to get to the Island from his days before ballooning when Lawrie frequently sailed to the Island and circumnavigated it in a number of Round the Island Races.
Before becoming a commercial pilot taking passengers to the skies, Lawrie followed his passion for competition flying by entering the UK National Balloon Championships for a number of years. Occasionally and bizarrely these Championships were held in France and Belgium and co-run with the National Championships of those countries.
Since being a teenager Lawrie's other love is motorbikes and today he owns a Trumph 900cc Adventurer motor-cycle which he takes out on the road whenever he can. Why not join Lawrie in the sky over Scotland on a Virgin Balloon Flight near you.
Back in 2003, balloonists gathered at a flower festival in Dubai that Martin Cowling was running; it was here that he first encountered the experience of ballooning and knew then that piloting hot air balloons would become his passion.
Spontaneously purchasing a balloon following the thrill of his first airborne adventure, it wasn't until the seams were being stitched that Martin learnt to fly. After gaining his pilot's licence Martin went on to fly in some of the world's most beautiful places including Ireland, Italy, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bahrain, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany and Austria.
Martin describes two particular flights as totally unforgettable. "One incredible flight was across the Alps in Italy, floating at 22,000 ft. We flew over Monte Rosa which is the highest peak in the Alps. Flying over the mountains and being up in the clouds was wonderful, just how high we were was amazing."
Another memorable flight was flying over the Valley of the Kings. We took off from Luxor and as we rose up in the air, the ground below us was green for a couple of kilometres then just faded into desert. You get a complete different perspective when you're up in the air. To float above the river Nile and the Valley of the Kings really is something else," he says.
"I get a real buzz from flying passengers. The best is when you get people who are apprehensive, not knowing what's ahead of them and then half way through they are all excited and really getting involved. By the time you land, everyone is so happy and you know they've absolutely loved their experience" adds Martin.
Outside of flying, Martin holds a passion for innovative design and construction projects; he has just finished his latest project – restoring a ruined coach house to a stunning home for himself and his partner. Join Martin in the skies on your Virgin Balloon Flight above Scotland.
Piers Glydon has been a hot air balloon pilot since 1990 and gained his commercial pilot's licence in 1992. Since then Piers has flown more than 1,500 balloon flights as pilot in command, taking to the skies in some of the world's most beautiful places.
Throughout his piloting career Piers has flown balloons in both their smallest and largest capacities from one man 'cloudhoppers' to huge commercial baskets carrying 20 passengers.
Talking of his most memorable flights Piers recalls his favourite being in the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan, taking off in remote villages 10,000 feet above sea level and soaring on the wind over the mountains. He's also flown hot air balloons in Burma, Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, Russia and numerous places around Europe.
In the UK and as a part of the Virgin Balloon Flights team, Piers will be flying our passengers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. "The area around Bakewell is a beautiful one in which to fly." he said. "The views of the Peak District can be stunning from the air," he says.
Why not see the sights for yourself and climb on-board one of our hot air balloons with Piers.
Steve Richards began his flying career in 1984 as a fixed-wing pilot before being introduced by a friend to a local company that needed someone to operate their newly purchased sponsored hot air balloon. It was then that Steve's love for ballooning began.
Taking the balloon to events across the length and breadth of the UK, competing in Grand Prix and National Championships as well as overseas national competitions, Steve gained techniques in the demanding competitive atmosphere that he still uses today in his commercial piloting career.
From then on in Steve was hooked and has since flown balloons in Holland, France, Germany, Italy and South America.
"After nearly 30 years of flying, there are so many memories of fantastic flights. Flying over the Alps, landing at the very peak of one highest mountains in the area and getting out one by one to leave footprints in the snow, the fun of landing between the gigantic vineyards in South America, the extremes of flying special shape balloons, flying across the Channel and the heart-stopping moment as you cross the edge of the cliffs below with nearly 20 miles of sea ahead of you....." re-called Steve.
When Steve's not flying one of our big red balloons he enjoys travelling, music and watching sport, particularly sailing, tennis, golf and rugby. He's a big fan of his ‘job' and favours the views of beautiful Britain from 3000ft above land. Steve loves meeting new people every day and making keen new balloonists' dreams come true.
Join him in the sky over the Surrey countryside on a Virgin Balloon Flight.
Tim Parker first went on a balloon flight in the early 1990's and enjoyed it so much he thought he'd make a career of it. A year later Tim gained his private pilot's licence before becoming a commercial hot air balloon pilot in 1995.
Since then father-of-two Tim has flown in countries all over the world including Austria, Italy, America, Thailand, Philippines and of course the UK. His most memorable flight from all his ballooning years was seeing a mystery non-domestic ‘big cat' on an early morning flight in Somerset!
"Being a balloon pilot is the best job in the world. There is nothing better than a perfect flight with great landscapes, good weather, happy passengers and people waving up at the balloon from the ground below," says Tim.
When Tim's not piloting a Virgin balloon in Essex, a stone's throw from his home in the Dengie Peninsular, he enjoys travelling. From tip to toe of the earth, Tim's visited Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Antarctica. He's keen to visit Australia and plans to do so at some stage when he's not piloting in the sky.
Join him on-board one of our big red hot air balloons above Essex!
When Alan Lusty became a balloon pilot his dream - which started when he visited the Bristol Balloon Fiesta as an 11-year-old school boy - came true.
Twelve years on, and five since he became a commercial pilot, the father of two has made the dreams of thousands of lucky passengers a reality by taking them on flights from launch sites in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
His passion for being airborne doesn't end there, because you name it, Alan has flown in it. During 13 years in the RAF as an air traffic control engineer he flew in planes like Tornadoes, Hercules and Tri Stars, plus Chinook, Sea King and Puma helicopters. During this time he served in the Gulf, the Falklands, Belize, Cypress and Germany.
It's fair to say heights are not an issue for Alan as since he left the Air Force his day job, as a telecommunications specialist for several major phone network providers, has often found him scaling 250ft phone masts!
So after all these adrenaline packed pursuits, what is it about hot air balloons that has him hooked'
"It's the unpredictable nature of ballooning, the fact that every flight is different and you never know what to expect, that's what keeps me coming back for more." Alan says. "I also love the skill and control elements involved as you always have to be thinking ahead of balloon and what it's about to do."
"The feeling of freedom once you're up there is amazing and the views are fantastic. It is such a brilliant viewing gallery because it's so still and you feel no wind resistance at all."
Alan, who has flown balloons in Italy and Spain, said his most memorable flight was over the surface of the Mohne Reservoir and Damn in Germany, a target of the infamous World War II Dambusters raid. He managed to land that flight on a hospital's helicopter launch pad. How's that for parking?
You can see Alan in action yourself if you book onto a flight from Grimsthorpe Castle near Bourne, Belton Woods near Grantham, Stamford Meadows and Peterborough.
Damon has flown passenger-carrying hot air balloons for 13 years and has well over 1,000 hours ballooning experience. He has been flying for Virgin Balloon Flights for nearly ten years and pilots hot air balloon rides in Kent and Sussex.
Damon started ballooning as a hobby then decided to leave his highly paid managerial job in the City to take to the skies permanently. Since then, he has flown hot air balloons in Switzerland, North Africa, USA, Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Germany, England and Scotland. He's a particular fan of doing hot air balloon flights in Kent, his home county.
He has also had the privilege of working with Sir Richard Branson in Morocco. His most memorable ballooning occasion was a wonderful flight over the Austrian Alps at over 18,000 feet!
Damon said: "It was the most incredible view I think I am ever likely to see, although I must admit the flight I did with Blind Date in Italy, pushes this very close, particularly as the couple ended up marrying! I believe they were only one of three to ever get hitched so it must have been something special."
He has also flown actor Brian Murphy, flown the family of the week for Channel 4's Big Breakfast and been "buzzed" by the Red Arrows as a stunt.
Damon does balloon flights from Kent including launch sites at Mote Park in Maidstone, Goudhurst, Headcorn, Sutton Valance and from the balloon you may see other towns such as Canterbury. He also does ballooning rides in Sussex from Fernhurst and Crowborough north of Portsmouth.
Dave has 18 years experience as a commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has taken to the skies all over Europe and the USA in a varied flying career. To him: "Ballooning is just pure enjoyment - it's not work." Dave, or "Sutty" as he is known, goes ballooning in Yorkshire and County Durham.
He is also half of the team which won the Great British Long Jump 2005 title. Along with co-pilot Ian Swift, Dave flew the furthest in the UK in a single flight during the month of October.
The pair packed a 105 balloon with fuel cylinders and flew an impressive 168 miles from County Durham to Bedfordshire. They were airbourne for 6 hours and 20 minutes! They cruised at 6,000ft for much of the journey, flying at an average of 27mph, and followed the A1, narrowly avoiding East Midlands Airport! They were awarded the Frog title, which is awarded to the outright winner. Now they are planning to top that performance later this year.
Long distance flying is nothing new to father of two Dave, who has also dabbled in the world of gas balloons, the cousins of hot air balloons which fly much further as they are filled with hydrogen instead of plain hot air.
In 2004 he took part in the World Gas Balloon Championships when he and his co-pilot flew the whole length of Poland.
"We flew from south of Berlin all way up to Kaliningrad and I think it took us around 16 hours. It was a hell of an experience," he says.
Dave won't fly you quite so far, but he will be whisking people away on balloon rides from York, Ripley Castle and Bishop Auckland in County Durham.
Des has been flying hot air balloons since 2003 after a chance encounter changed his career path forever. Now he pilots balloon rides in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire with Virgin.
After previous jobs including inspection engineer on oil super tankers and six years as a business development manager for BT, a balloon pilot who lived next door asked if Des wanted to help as a ground crew for the day.
That was it; Des instantly became hooked on hot air ballooning and, after training while acting as head crew for a Virgin balloon pilot in Cheshire and the Midlands, he became a pilot himself.
Des, who is originally from Essex but has long been a Shropshire resident, has now flown all over Europe including flights in Spain and Italy.
"My favourite place to fly is in the Swiss Alps, where I had one of my most memorable flights. The flight in question lasted nearly four hours. It was one of those days when the conditions were perfect, and the views across the Alps were stunning," he says.
"The thing I love most about ballooning is that every flight is completely different, which makes the job more interesting each time you fly. You also get to meet a different group of people on each flight. It's great to be able to give people that once in a lifetime experience of flying in a hot air balloon."
Des loves anything that's in the great outdoors and when he isn't thousands of feet in the air he enjoys walking, cycling and skiing.
Join Des for a balloon ride from Worcester, Evesham, Stratford upon Avon, Shelsley Walsh, Eastnor Castle near Hereford and Ludlow.
Gary Mortimer began flying hot air balloons in 1988 having continually bumped into them during his 17 years in the Royal Air Force (although not literally!). Gary now pilots balloon flights in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
He has taught balloon pilots in Thailand and flown passengers in Australia, Kenya, France, South Africa and England. He also once flew to France across the English Channel.
Gary has 2500 hours of balloon flying experience and is one of the UK pilots to hold a Class C rating, he also holds an Australian group 4 rating and is a class 2 instructor in South Africa.
As for memorable flights, Gary says many spring to mind, but any of the flights that he undertook from the centre of London, launching from next to Tower Bridge, are near the top of his list as flying from London is difficult for lots of reasons and most planned flights from the capital are moved to surrounding counties.
Being the first pilot to fly over Bangkok is especially memorable for him, as are his trips across the centre of Melbourne, in Australia. In fact, he says, any flight over a large city is a brilliant one.
Gary does hot air balloon flights from Knebworth near Stevenage, St Albans, Biggleswade and Cambridge West.
John has flown passenger carrying balloons for many years now, being one of the first pilots to obtain an Air Operators Certificate. He does balloon flights in Lancashire and Cumbria area.
John has flown in Thailand, Greece, Italy, Austria, Antigua and Switzerland. In Switzerland he gained his airship licence. He has also taught many people to fly in different parts of the world.
Originally John bought a balloon to advertise a business he owned. However, it was soon evident that ballooning was becoming an obsession, he enjoyed the thrill of flying so much that he wound down the business, and concentrated entirely on hot air ballooning.
John is passionate about sailing and relishes the opportunity to get out onto the waters whenever he is not flying hot air balloons. He also enjoys walking in the countryside, bird watching and eating out.
John's overriding motto when ballooning is that safety always comes first. John is the Safety Officer for the BBAC (British Balloon & Airship Club) and also holds the position of Safety Officer and Chairman for the British Association of Balloon Operators.
John flies from launch sites within the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. Blackburn and Preston are not far away making them very popular sites. The Kirkby Lonsdale launch site offers unrivalled panoramic views over the stunning Cumbrian landscape with fantastic aerial views of the amazing Lake District region.
Lindsay is one of the leading balloonists in Great Britain, the UK's leading female competition pilot and, arguably, the best female hot air balloon pilot in the world. She has been flying for 23 years and does Virgin Balloon Flights over Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
Lindsay competed in the 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997 and 1999 World Hot Air Balloon Championships and the 1992, 1994 & 2000 European Championships (where she was usually the only female pilot).
In 1990 she won the first Ladies World Cup, a title which she retained for the following two years and regained in 1996 (having not competed for 2 years). In 1988 she became the first female pilot to become British Champion, and once again won the championship at the end of August 1996.
In 1995 she was placed 6th in the World Championship and in 1997 she was placed 2nd in the 1st World Air Games Hot Air Balloon Championship; this is the highest a woman has been placed in open international hot air balloon championships.
She has also set British women's and general and World women's distance, duration and altitude records. She's now got her sights set on smashing a number of other world ballooning record, watch this space. All this as well as running a business and being a mum? phew, how does she do it!?!
Lindsay pilots hot air balloon flights from Shropshire, Staffordshire or Cheshire.
Mandy was born to be in the air and now the highly-experienced balloonist and skydiver takes passengers on Virgin balloon rides in Devon & Cornwall.
So far in an incredible career, Mandy has excelled in many adventure sports all over the world, from mountaineering to cave-diving, but the sky is where she feels most at home.
She has well over 2,000 parachute jumps to her name and has taken part in many successful sky-diving record attempts, including being one of 15 people to simultaneously jump from a hot air balloon. Mandy also has acted as a stunt woman for various TV shows and adverts which included one jump wearing a full-length wedding dress.
Since 1981, Mandy has been producing films with her husband Leo, a renowned action-sport filmmaker. It was when Leo flew over Mount Everest in a balloon for a film that she decided to learn to fly and it wasn't long before she caught the ballooning bug.
She gained her private pilot's licence in 1994 and turned commercial in 1997, before embarking on the corporate circuit to fly advertising balloons all over the world. She also flew balloons for aerial filming such as Steve Leonard's skydiving with Peregrine Falcons on the BBC series "Ultimate Killers". In 2002 she moved into passenger flying and did her first season for Virgin Balloon Flights in 2009.
"The great thing about ballooning is that no flight is ever the same as the next. Every one is a new experience, which makes it challenging and exciting. I just love being up in the air," says Mandy.
Mandy holds the British Woman's duration record for a 90,000 cubic feet balloon, having flown for 10.5 hours straight. She also won the Great British Long Jump competition in October 2003 when she flew 247 miles from Scotland to Kettering.
You can join Mandy on a champagne balloon flight from Liskeard, Launceston in Cornwall or Exeter in Devon.
Mark is one of finest and most experienced hot air balloon pilots in the world having flown more than 2,000 hours in large balloons. He pilots Virgin Balloon Flights in Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey.
Mark currently holds three British ballooning records for distance plus the World Record for duration in the small AX-02 balloon category from when he flew solo 7h 26min 56s from Morzine in France in 2009. He has flown the Channel, spent time flying in Barbados, Toronto, Switzerland and many other superb locations.
Mark does hot air balloon flights from Alton and Basingstoke in Hampshire; Henley in Oxfordshire and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.
Mark has been a commercial hot air balloon pilot since 1991. He has flown more than 80 balloons including many special shapes in over 30 countries for famous brands, such as Michelin, Motorola, Coca-Cola and the Financial Times. He is a double world record holder and captains hot air balloon flights in Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area.
Mark, known to friends and colleagues as "Nobby", started flying when he was a teenager and to this day holds the record for being the youngest pilot to captain a balloon across the English Channel in 1991, at the age of just 21. He would like to point out that this flight to France was intentional.
He said: "Flying a balloon at 18,000 ft above Switzerland in January 1995, seeing pretty much the whole of the Swiss Alps and all the way to the French Alps, Italian Alps, German Alps, Austrian Alps, the Eiger, the Materhorn, Mont Blanc, the view was probably the most amazing sight I have ever seen. Definitely my most memorable flight. And to top it all, it was just another day at the office!".
In May 2006, Mark teamed up with Future Music magazine and rock-band the Girls to set two Guinness World Records for the highest concert ever in a hot air balloon and the highest song recording in a balloon more than 5,000ft above the South West of England. He has ambitions to break many more records, some more whacky than others.
Marks hot air balloon rides from Aston Court, Bristol; ballooning flights from Royal Victoria Park, Bath; Glastonbury; Cheltenham; Cirencester; Monmouth and Pandy near Cardiff in South Wales.
Martin has been hot air ballooning professionally for 13 years and has thousands of hours of flying under his belt. He has also worked and travelled in over 80 countries worldwide. Martin pilots Virgin Balloon Flights from York.
Martin has many experiences he can recount and one interesting period was the setting up of a flight operation around Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and another quiet different experience was working at a school for children with behavioural problems in Denmark, using ballooning as a vehicle for change.
With a love of the outdoors, Martin spends much of the winter teaching skiing and leading climbing expeditions in high and remote places. Despite the extreme and challenging nature of these activities there is little to compare to the buzz of flying big balloons. Most of all Martin enjoys flying here in the UK.
He says: "It definitely is the green and pleasant land - full of diverse and interesting things to see. Enjoying this beauty whilst helping to turn people's dreams into reality makes ballooning the best job in the world." Martin does balloon flights from York Racecourse.
Richard gained his commercial hot air ballooning licence in 1993 and joined the Virgin team in 2003. He has more than 500 hours of experience and pilots balloon flights in Devon and Cornwall.
Between 1994 and 2002 Richard worked as a contract pilot, flying more than 2000 passengers in balloons ranging from Cameron 180's through to the bigger 315's, capable of carrying up to 16 passengers.
In addition, Richard has toured Europe as part of the Michelin team, and flown a variety of special shapes, including the well known Michelin Man which stands at over 180 feet tall.
Richard currently has over 500 hours of commercial flying experience and holds A & B category licenses.
Richard does balloon flights in Devon from launch sites near Plymouth and further a field, where he makes best use of his extensive local knowledge of Dartmoor and the south coast peninsula. He also does ballooning rides from Liskaerd in Cornwall.
Former army officer Robert started flying hot air balloons in 1991 after the sight of one above Norwich filled him with intrigue. Years on he is now Virgin Balloon Flights' pilot in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Before ballooning Robert was educated in Norfolk and attended the local agricultural college at Easton. He then looked after the family farm and a local dairy farm before serving 12 years in the Royal Anglian Regiment leaving as an Infantry Company Commander.
"In 1990 I spotted a hot air balloon over Norwich and I knew at that moment I had to get up there and get a piece of the action. I started flying in 1991 with a local instructor by the name of Thomas-Holt-Wilson. A very talented pilot and it is him I can thank for passing his knowledge to me."
Robert's commercial ballooning started with flying the Eastern Electric Balloon which he describes as "a wonderful and interesting contract flying most of their corporate clients from builders to car manufacturers" and a "very enjoyable two years".
He went on to run his own successful passenger rides operation offering balloon flights in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire before joining Virgin Balloon Flights. During his career so far, Robert has flown in France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, but he still says:
"My favourite place to fly is Norfolk, with 2,000 square miles of diverse geography from the Norfolk Broads to the Breckland Forests, it's a very special county.
"The best thing about ballooning is the peace and serenity, no other flying comes remotely close. My most memorable flight was flying over the Alps in Austria, the most amazing scenery of snow covered mountain peaks as far as the eye could see."
Robert lists his interests as spending time with his wonderful wife and two young children, as well as being an active member of the community, currently holding the post as chairman of the parish council.
Join Robert for a balloon flight over Norfolk or Suffolk
Simon has been flying balloons for eight years and has joined Virgin Balloon Flights to do Champagne hot air balloon rides from Dorset, Devon and Somerset launch sites.
During his career so far, the 43-year-old father of two has piloted all over Europe, including flights amongst the challenging Swiss and Austrian Alps.
Perhaps the feat the new Virgin pilot is most proud of, however, is when he single-handedly soaring on the wind across the Channel in 2006.
Simon said: "It was part of a major charity challenge and I was raising money for the Hospice in the Weald in Kent. Me and some other pilots launched from Kent and it took around 55 minutes to reach the French coast".
"We flew at around 2,000ft above the water all the way across and from the moment I reached that altitude over the white cliffs of Dover I could see France clearly in the distance. The view was spectacular."
"I was enjoying it so much that I carried on for two and a half hours before eventually landing. There I was greeted by a really friendly local farmer and his family who gave me lunch while I waited for the retrieval crew to come across on the ferry and pick me up."
That day, Simon was using a small sports balloon, a bit different from the huge 100ft tall red 12-man Virgin balloon he'll be flying in Dorset. He'll usually fly for around an hour and always treat his passengers to a traditional champagne toast.
Simon, a carpenter and kitchen-fitter by trade, first got involved with ballooning by crewing for a pilot he knew and it was then that he "caught the bug".
"I never really intended to fly balloons for a living. To be honest, at first, I was quite apprehensive about even going up in them. But a balloon flight is like nothing else you'll ever experience, it's amazing, and since I got into it I've never looked back," he added.
Simon does balloon flights from Exeter, Blandford Forum, Shaftsbury, Tiverton, Taunton and Sherborne near Yeovil.
Spencer has been flying hot air balloons since 1996 continuing his family's passion for the sport and he now flies for Virgin Balloon Flights in Surrey.
Ballooning is in Spencer's blood as his father Danny was a keen pilot in Hemel Hempstead in the 1970s. He owns a private balloon with his brother Lee and learned to fly in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire before getting his commercial licence in 2005 and joining Virgin Balloon Flights in 2009.
The father-of-two says that, for him, being a balloon pilot is the best job in the world.
"I love the all round experience of ballooning, from the challenge of doing the flying, to meeting and entertaining my passengers. It's so different to any 9 to 5 job and having your office at 2,000ft can't be bad," he says.
"Balloon rides in Surrey are fantastic as it has a tremendous amount of beautiful woodland to fly over, yet it's really close to London, so you can sometimes have great views of the city," he adds.
Spencer's most memorable flight was when he crossed the English Channel to France. As well as ballooning, Spencer's other love is rugby and he has played and coached at his home club Fullerians in Watford for many years.