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Meet the Team

The Balloon Aloft team is a group of dedicated ballooning professionals with a passion for flying and sharing the magic of hot air ballooning with others. Learn more about what makes our team so special...

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Graeme Scaife

Owner, Director & Pilot

What’s you nickname?
Grazza

When did you get started in ballooning?
1985

What’s your favourite thing about your job?  
Meeting many different people from many different countries. Every flight is different and challenging.

Describe a day on the job?
As Chief Pilot, I am responsible for all the pilots and crew, checking that their qualifications are up to date and their check flights are completed to the correct standard.

How many flights have you been on?
About 4000

What’s your dream holiday?
Living where I live in Port Stephens.

Who is your hero?
Queen Elizabeth II.

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Jacqueline Bisset.

What is your funniest ballooning story?  
I landed in a Monastery garden, the monks all came out and stood and looked but when I spoke to them they would not answer me. The gardener said it was their hour of silence, just my luck!

 

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Matthew Scaife

Director, Pilot, Three-time Australian Ballooning Champion and baked goods provider

Matthew is a three time Australian Ballooning champion and is ranked 10th in the world in competition ballooning.  Matthew got an early start in ballooning, taking his very first flight with his father, Graeme, at the age of 6 and going on to gain his pilot’s licence at the age of 21. 14 Years later he now has over 2000 flying hours of experience, three Australian Championship wins and two top 5 results in International competition in 2014. Matthew has a deep love of flying and can be found most mornings drifting above the Hunter Valley, Camden or Mudgee.

How did you become involved in ballooning?
Graeme, my dad, taught me to fly.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Looking at everyone's faces after take off

How many flights have you been on?
About 2500

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Taking off from The World Island's in Dubai and landing on The Palm

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Winning my second Australian National Championship in 2015

What’s you nickname?
Ginge

If you haven’t become a balloonist what would you be doing as a career right now?
A magician

Who is your hero?
Gordan Ramsey

What’s your karaoke song?  
Wicked Games by Chris Isaak       

What is one thing you will never do again?
Watch my wife give birth

What would you name your rock band?
The Flying Stones

 

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David Bain

General Manager and office gal

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
18 years

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with people that love their job and are passionate about it.

Describe a day on the job
The serious part of getting the aircraft ready for action followed by meeting & greeting passengers, (several coffees) lots of joking around with pilots and crew (we get off on giving each other a hard time ). Watching different peoples reactions as we near take off and at the other end they are always smiling...Plenty of fun during pack up and back to Petersons for the most perfect way to finish the morning.      
   
How did you become involved in ballooning?
Through a friend who was crewing at the time ... I actually worked occasionally without being paid just because I loved it so much.

How many flights have you been on?
I have my private pilot license and currently studying for a commercial licence. I have 100 flight hours

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Crewing for Women’s World Champion Pilot, Nicola Scaife, who is one of our pilots at Balloon Aloft

What’s your karaoke song?   
Jack and Dianne ...But during ballooning can be heard singing a bit of Come Fly With Me, come fly, come fly away!   

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Will throw up on both!

What’s your dream holiday?
Anywhere which involves ballooning (my wife might disagree)

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Clay Rix

Chief Pilot

When did you get started in ballooning?
9 years ago

Describe a day on the job?  
Uplifting

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Gaining my commercial license

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Motorbike riding

What’s you nickname?
Rixy

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Drew Barrymore

What’s your favourite sport that you can’t actually play?
Kurling

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
Today I'm feeling the pain of success

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Nicola Scaife

Hunter Valley Pilot & Two-Time Women's World Ballooning Champion

In 2014 Nicola took out the inaugural Women’s World Ballooning Championship held in Poland. In 2015 she backed up that win with a first place at the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge and second place in the Australian Ballooning Championship competing against some of the biggest names in the sport. In 2016 Nicola made it back-to-back championships when she once again claimed the title of Women's World Ballooning Champion at the Women's Worlds event in Lithuania. When she’s not forging an impressive name for herself in the world of competition ballooning, Nicola enjoys sharing her love of flying with her passengers on Balloon Aloft Hunter Valley sunrise flights.

When did you get started in ballooning?
10 years ago, in Canberra.

How did you become involved in ballooning?
 I was fortunate to secure my first job with a ballooning company the morning of my first ever balloon flight. I was a passenger and loved the experience so much I asked for a job! I started out as retrieve crew and also working in the office and then worked my way to becoming a pilot.

Describe a day on the job.   
My day starts when my alarm goes off at crazy o’clock, usually about 2 hours before sunrise. That's the only time it really feels like a job! I get up and check the weather then head to Peterson House to greet and sign in my passengers for the morning. Here we do another weather check, choose our launch site and plan the flight. We fly for around an hour then pack up and head back for a champagne breakfast where I get to chat with my passengers more. Then there is some paperwork to be done and I head home for a nap (an essential and great perk of the job!).

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Winning the Women’s World hot air ballooning championships in Poland in 2014. Being ranked the #2 balloon pilot in Australia (male and female).

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My husband and I took our son, Hugo, on his first balloon flight when we were in Dubai recently at the World Air Games. We launched from The Palm flew out over the Arabian Gulf and then flew inland towards the desert. It was an incredible flight!

What is your funniest ballooning story?
We used to have a country music festival in the Hunter Valley. Flying over the camping area in the mornings always made for an entertaining flight for my passengers. With people sleeping in very odd places and in various states of dress!

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Ballooning is also my hobby so I am always ballooning! Otherwise I’ll be at home with my 2-year-old son, Hugo, swimming or bushwalking.

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Clement Seigeot

Pilot and Frenchman

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
3 years

How did you become involved in ballooning?
The legend says I was born in a balloon basket as my dad, my mom, my brother and my aunt are balloon pilots.

What’s you nickname?
Frenchman. I have absolutely no idea why!

Favourite food?
Anything with French cheese!

Describe a day on the job
Waking up at 3AM, checking the weather, checking the weather again, enjoying a sunrise at 3000FT with my  passengers, giving them the experience of their life and then back home for a 3h nap!

Who is your hero?
Bertrand Picard. He is the guy who did the first around the world balloon flight in 1999.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Putting the biggest smile ever on my passenger’s faces.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Rock climbing

What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat vegemite! It’s never good to eat mechanical grease anyway.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Sleeping or chasing French food in Australia!

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
Child:  Clem when I grow up, I want to do the same job as you.
Me: Oh, you want to become a balloon pilot?!
Child: Nah, I want to do nothing, like you do”

 

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Sam Huggins

Hunter Valley Pilot and Reservations Office Guest Star

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I've been employed by Balloon Aloft for nearly 5 years now, but to say I've 'worked' for 5 years would be a bit of an overstatement ;)


How did you become involved in ballooning?
I made the huge 1 hour trek from Muswellbrook down to the lovely wine region to attend university at Newcastle. One of the pilots at Balloon Aloft, who was also my basketball coach, told me he had a 'driving job' for me which fitted in perfectly with uni. The next thing I know I was starting work at 4am the next morning chasing balloons, and for anyone who has flown with us before knows, it's impossible not to fall in love with.


What is your greatest career accomplishment?
I have only recently received my private hot air balloon license, with the goal of becoming a commercial pilot in the years to come. By far the proudest moment of my career was receiving the paperwork and confirmation in the post :D


What's your nickname?
Apparently my nickname is cuddles, anyone know where it comes from?


What is your favourite sport or hobby?
If you don't find me out in the fields working with hot air balloons you'll probably find me at the basketball courts shooting, coaching or playing. I have no doubt you'll guess which ones the basketball player when you come flying


Who's your hero?
Yosh, one of our pilots here at Balloon Aloft. Ask how he saved a burning building...

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Steve Hawke

Pilot and all-round nice guy

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Since April 2019

How many flights have you been on?
Over 4000

What’s you nickname?
"Hawkey"

Describe a day on the job
Drifting  

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Paddling whitewater

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I was in the right place at the right time

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Meg Ryan

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Flying during the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse

Favourite food?
Ice cream

What’s on your bucket list?
Complete a marathon

 

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Dean Pegg (Deano)

Sydney Area Crew Master and Guru

When did you get started in ballooning?
In the eighties.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Watching the balloons take off.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Being on back to back National Champion Teams, twice!

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Matt and Nic's energy when he led the Battle Creek Worlds in 2012.

Who is your hero?
Eddie Mabo.

If you hadn't become a balloonist what would you be doing as a career right now?
Agriculture and horticulture.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
In the rainforest.

 

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Wayne Briggs

Sydney Balloon Crew Super-Star

What’s you nickname?
Affectionately known by my team as the man mountain or Briggsy

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Almost 3 years now

How did you become involved in ballooning?
Started out as a passenger in Camden, talked to Deano about crewing and organised a trial day. Never left.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I get to meet new and amazing people every single day. I work with an amazing team and I get to watch the sunrise every day.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My first training flight for my personal pilots licence, awesome sunrise over the Hunter Valley.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
I own a Combat Archery business outside of ballooning, love shooting arrows.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Being asked to join competition balloon pilots overseas as crew for the world championships.

What’s your karaoke song?
Tequila by The Champs

What’s your secret talent?
I partake in competitive axe throwing and have won local championship comps.

Do you collect anything?
If you ask my wife, I collect fishing rods

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Karen Scott

Balloon Crew Rockstar

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Byron Bay would be nice.
 
What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Waking up at 3am

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Love my V8 super cars.

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Merry go round as I'm actually petrified of heights, would you believe.

What is one thing you will never do again?
Go on a roller coaster

Who is your hero?
Without a doubt, my dad

 

 

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Dylan Gosling

Camden and Hunter Valley Crew Champ

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I started over 9 years ago as a volunteer and then decided that they should be paying me for my talent.
 
How did you become involved in ballooning?
Through my mum, Karen, as she works at Balloon Aloft as well
 
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Well if I don't say working with my mum she will get upset, so yes working with my mum.
 
How many flights have you been on?
I’ve lost count. A few.
 
When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Unfortunately, I have a real job, so you will find me hard at work In Penrith.
 
What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
My mums cooking.. Sorry mum
 
What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat my mums cooking
 
Favourite food?
Not my mums cooking
 
Who is your hero?
Well after the previous answers, I will need to say my mum.

 

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Taylor Miller

Byron Bay Balloon Crew and Local Relations Officer

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Only recently Since the opening of our new Byron Bay location!

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I love being up early and to witness the first light of the day. Where we live is the first place to see the sun in Australia, the landscape is particularly lush and I think the light play is more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. A complete day to me is where I am outdoors for both sunrise and sunset.

How many flights have you been on?
Too many to count, my boyfriend is a pilot! Certainly a frequent flyer... we should make ballooning frequent flyer cards with upgrade incentives.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Definitely in the Chile part of Patagonia... if that was possible.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
For sure in the ocean, garden or local cafe.

What’s your dream holiday?
Surfing on the Chilean coastline, all left-handers and I'm a goofy.

Favourite food?
Buffala mozarella italian style or creamy avocado... ideally both together!

What’s you nickname?
Tubby Tay ... thats kind of on the lowdown but I was a chubby baby...

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
WARNING - will always see the good in everyone... its a double edged sword.

What’s on your bucket list?
Doing a week long hike somewhere remote, amazing and mountainous ... however one with some groovy huts, a village or amazing food pit stop half way would be acceptable haha.

 

 

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Michelle Wills

Marketing Manager


How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Eleven Years

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I was working in public relations and had been involved in ballooning via different jobs. I loved my first balloon flight so when the opportunity came to work for a ballooning company in the Hunter I jumped at the chance.


What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Flying with my husband recently over the vineyards. I also have fond memories of my very first balloon flight at Marty's Balloon Fiesta in Canowindra and enjoying a ride in a tethered polar bear shaped balloon at Milson's Point next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


What is your greatest career accomplishment?  
Submitting and winning Best Adventure Tourism Operator for Balloon Aloft at many Hunter and NSW Tourism Awards.

What’s you nickname?
 Shell

Favourite food?
Salt and Pepper Squid

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Tom Selleck. I am so old! I used to love watching Magnum PI when I was young and had a picture of him on my wall! lol

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
My son told my husband recently "Dad, Happy wife, Happy life!" He is only nine so I'm not sure where he picked up that line but I definitely agree with him!

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Peili (Ava) Zhang

Sales & Accounting Champ

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
2.5 years

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with the best team.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Turkey
 
What’s you nickname?
Lele

Favourite food?
Dumplings

Who is your hero?
My Dad

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Merry-go-round, 100% sure!

 

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Amy Fox

Reservations Star & Fun Manager

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I’m coming up to my 10-year Balloon Aloft Birthday, it is amazing that both myself and Balloon Aloft have lasted this long together. #yourstuckwithmenow
 
If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
 I would like to fly over London one day, it might take me a very long time to make that happen but I think that would be really cool.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
I’ll be at the basketball stadium pretending that I’m not to old to still play.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Sarcastic but sweet

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean, please don’t judge me to harshly.

What is one thing you will never do again?
One of those floor drop from under you water slides, worst experience of my life, I can’t believe people do that for fun. It took me 45 minutes to get the courage to do it and after doing it I had massive regrets. #notsofun

What’s your secret talent?
I can whistle and hum at the same time. Yes, I know I’m basically a superhero.

What’s on your bucket list?
The top thing on my bucket list is to go see the northern lights.

When did you get started in ballooning?
I thought I was going for an interview for a position but got there and they were like you start today.

How many flights have you been on?
If you know me you would know that I’m not a great morning person, so it is a lot less then I would like but maybe about 8 or so.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My favourite memory would be at the finale of our Hunter Valley Night Glow. We are such a small team and all put so much work in to make it happen and to see the balloons glowing and fireworks was amazing.

 

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Sally Heggs

Reservations Officer & Young Padwan

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I went for a balloon ride and loved it that much I sought out a job here.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Suffering at university.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Apart from eating, it would have to be cheerleading.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
The relaxed family environment within the office.

What is your favourite food?
Anything covered in cheese.

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Durian or snails

What’s your secret talent?
I’ve been a contortionist for 12 years.

If you had a warning label what would it be?
Smart but sassy.
 

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Peta Hurley

Does something around here...

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?  
18 years.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with a great team of people that are more like family than work colleagues.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
I’d love to fly over the Snowy Mountains.

How many flights have you been on?
Probably close to 100.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Learning to fly with friends in England.

What’s your dream holiday?
Snowboarding in Canada.

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Rollercoaster. And then Rollercoster again.

What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
Chicken feet. Tastes like chicken.

What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat chicken feet.

Do you collect anything?
Does cellulite count?

Graeme Scaife
Owner, Director & Pilot
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Graeme Scaife

Owner, Director & Pilot

What’s you nickname?
Grazza

When did you get started in ballooning?
1985

What’s your favourite thing about your job?  
Meeting many different people from many different countries. Every flight is different and challenging.

Describe a day on the job?
As Chief Pilot, I am responsible for all the pilots and crew, checking that their qualifications are up to date and their check flights are completed to the correct standard.

How many flights have you been on?
About 4000

What’s your dream holiday?
Living where I live in Port Stephens.

Who is your hero?
Queen Elizabeth II.

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Jacqueline Bisset.

What is your funniest ballooning story?  
I landed in a Monastery garden, the monks all came out and stood and looked but when I spoke to them they would not answer me. The gardener said it was their hour of silence, just my luck!

 

Matthew Scaife
Director, Pilot, Three-time Australian Ballooning Champion and baked goods provider
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Matthew Scaife

Director, Pilot, Three-time Australian Ballooning Champion and baked goods provider

Matthew is a three time Australian Ballooning champion and is ranked 10th in the world in competition ballooning.  Matthew got an early start in ballooning, taking his very first flight with his father, Graeme, at the age of 6 and going on to gain his pilot’s licence at the age of 21. 14 Years later he now has over 2000 flying hours of experience, three Australian Championship wins and two top 5 results in International competition in 2014. Matthew has a deep love of flying and can be found most mornings drifting above the Hunter Valley, Camden or Mudgee.

How did you become involved in ballooning?
Graeme, my dad, taught me to fly.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Looking at everyone's faces after take off

How many flights have you been on?
About 2500

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Taking off from The World Island's in Dubai and landing on The Palm

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Winning my second Australian National Championship in 2015

What’s you nickname?
Ginge

If you haven’t become a balloonist what would you be doing as a career right now?
A magician

Who is your hero?
Gordan Ramsey

What’s your karaoke song?  
Wicked Games by Chris Isaak       

What is one thing you will never do again?
Watch my wife give birth

What would you name your rock band?
The Flying Stones

 

David Bain
General Manager and office gal
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David Bain

General Manager and office gal

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
18 years

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with people that love their job and are passionate about it.

Describe a day on the job
The serious part of getting the aircraft ready for action followed by meeting & greeting passengers, (several coffees) lots of joking around with pilots and crew (we get off on giving each other a hard time ). Watching different peoples reactions as we near take off and at the other end they are always smiling...Plenty of fun during pack up and back to Petersons for the most perfect way to finish the morning.      
   
How did you become involved in ballooning?
Through a friend who was crewing at the time ... I actually worked occasionally without being paid just because I loved it so much.

How many flights have you been on?
I have my private pilot license and currently studying for a commercial licence. I have 100 flight hours

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Crewing for Women’s World Champion Pilot, Nicola Scaife, who is one of our pilots at Balloon Aloft

What’s your karaoke song?   
Jack and Dianne ...But during ballooning can be heard singing a bit of Come Fly With Me, come fly, come fly away!   

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Will throw up on both!

What’s your dream holiday?
Anywhere which involves ballooning (my wife might disagree)

Clay Rix
Chief Pilot
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Clay Rix

Chief Pilot

When did you get started in ballooning?
9 years ago

Describe a day on the job?  
Uplifting

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Gaining my commercial license

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Motorbike riding

What’s you nickname?
Rixy

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Drew Barrymore

What’s your favourite sport that you can’t actually play?
Kurling

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
Today I'm feeling the pain of success

Nicola Scaife
Hunter Valley Pilot & Two-Time Women's World Ballooning Champion
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Nicola Scaife

Hunter Valley Pilot & Two-Time Women's World Ballooning Champion

In 2014 Nicola took out the inaugural Women’s World Ballooning Championship held in Poland. In 2015 she backed up that win with a first place at the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge and second place in the Australian Ballooning Championship competing against some of the biggest names in the sport. In 2016 Nicola made it back-to-back championships when she once again claimed the title of Women's World Ballooning Champion at the Women's Worlds event in Lithuania. When she’s not forging an impressive name for herself in the world of competition ballooning, Nicola enjoys sharing her love of flying with her passengers on Balloon Aloft Hunter Valley sunrise flights.

When did you get started in ballooning?
10 years ago, in Canberra.

How did you become involved in ballooning?
 I was fortunate to secure my first job with a ballooning company the morning of my first ever balloon flight. I was a passenger and loved the experience so much I asked for a job! I started out as retrieve crew and also working in the office and then worked my way to becoming a pilot.

Describe a day on the job.   
My day starts when my alarm goes off at crazy o’clock, usually about 2 hours before sunrise. That's the only time it really feels like a job! I get up and check the weather then head to Peterson House to greet and sign in my passengers for the morning. Here we do another weather check, choose our launch site and plan the flight. We fly for around an hour then pack up and head back for a champagne breakfast where I get to chat with my passengers more. Then there is some paperwork to be done and I head home for a nap (an essential and great perk of the job!).

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Winning the Women’s World hot air ballooning championships in Poland in 2014. Being ranked the #2 balloon pilot in Australia (male and female).

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My husband and I took our son, Hugo, on his first balloon flight when we were in Dubai recently at the World Air Games. We launched from The Palm flew out over the Arabian Gulf and then flew inland towards the desert. It was an incredible flight!

What is your funniest ballooning story?
We used to have a country music festival in the Hunter Valley. Flying over the camping area in the mornings always made for an entertaining flight for my passengers. With people sleeping in very odd places and in various states of dress!

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Ballooning is also my hobby so I am always ballooning! Otherwise I’ll be at home with my 2-year-old son, Hugo, swimming or bushwalking.

Clement Seigeot
Pilot and Frenchman
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Clement Seigeot

Pilot and Frenchman

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
3 years

How did you become involved in ballooning?
The legend says I was born in a balloon basket as my dad, my mom, my brother and my aunt are balloon pilots.

What’s you nickname?
Frenchman. I have absolutely no idea why!

Favourite food?
Anything with French cheese!

Describe a day on the job
Waking up at 3AM, checking the weather, checking the weather again, enjoying a sunrise at 3000FT with my  passengers, giving them the experience of their life and then back home for a 3h nap!

Who is your hero?
Bertrand Picard. He is the guy who did the first around the world balloon flight in 1999.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Putting the biggest smile ever on my passenger’s faces.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Rock climbing

What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat vegemite! It’s never good to eat mechanical grease anyway.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Sleeping or chasing French food in Australia!

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
Child:  Clem when I grow up, I want to do the same job as you.
Me: Oh, you want to become a balloon pilot?!
Child: Nah, I want to do nothing, like you do”

 

Sam Huggins
Hunter Valley Pilot and Reservations Office Guest Star
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Sam Huggins

Hunter Valley Pilot and Reservations Office Guest Star

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I've been employed by Balloon Aloft for nearly 5 years now, but to say I've 'worked' for 5 years would be a bit of an overstatement ;)


How did you become involved in ballooning?
I made the huge 1 hour trek from Muswellbrook down to the lovely wine region to attend university at Newcastle. One of the pilots at Balloon Aloft, who was also my basketball coach, told me he had a 'driving job' for me which fitted in perfectly with uni. The next thing I know I was starting work at 4am the next morning chasing balloons, and for anyone who has flown with us before knows, it's impossible not to fall in love with.


What is your greatest career accomplishment?
I have only recently received my private hot air balloon license, with the goal of becoming a commercial pilot in the years to come. By far the proudest moment of my career was receiving the paperwork and confirmation in the post :D


What's your nickname?
Apparently my nickname is cuddles, anyone know where it comes from?


What is your favourite sport or hobby?
If you don't find me out in the fields working with hot air balloons you'll probably find me at the basketball courts shooting, coaching or playing. I have no doubt you'll guess which ones the basketball player when you come flying


Who's your hero?
Yosh, one of our pilots here at Balloon Aloft. Ask how he saved a burning building...

Steve Hawke
Pilot and all-round nice guy
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Steve Hawke

Pilot and all-round nice guy

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Since April 2019

How many flights have you been on?
Over 4000

What’s you nickname?
"Hawkey"

Describe a day on the job
Drifting  

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Paddling whitewater

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I was in the right place at the right time

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Meg Ryan

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Flying during the 2012 Total Solar Eclipse

Favourite food?
Ice cream

What’s on your bucket list?
Complete a marathon

 

Dean Pegg (Deano)
Sydney Area Crew Master and Guru
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Dean Pegg (Deano)

Sydney Area Crew Master and Guru

When did you get started in ballooning?
In the eighties.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Watching the balloons take off.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Being on back to back National Champion Teams, twice!

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Matt and Nic's energy when he led the Battle Creek Worlds in 2012.

Who is your hero?
Eddie Mabo.

If you hadn't become a balloonist what would you be doing as a career right now?
Agriculture and horticulture.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
In the rainforest.

 

Wayne Briggs
Sydney Balloon Crew Super-Star
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Wayne Briggs

Sydney Balloon Crew Super-Star

What’s you nickname?
Affectionately known by my team as the man mountain or Briggsy

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Almost 3 years now

How did you become involved in ballooning?
Started out as a passenger in Camden, talked to Deano about crewing and organised a trial day. Never left.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I get to meet new and amazing people every single day. I work with an amazing team and I get to watch the sunrise every day.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My first training flight for my personal pilots licence, awesome sunrise over the Hunter Valley.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
I own a Combat Archery business outside of ballooning, love shooting arrows.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Being asked to join competition balloon pilots overseas as crew for the world championships.

What’s your karaoke song?
Tequila by The Champs

What’s your secret talent?
I partake in competitive axe throwing and have won local championship comps.

Do you collect anything?
If you ask my wife, I collect fishing rods

Karen Scott
Balloon Crew Rockstar
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Karen Scott

Balloon Crew Rockstar

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Byron Bay would be nice.
 
What is your greatest career accomplishment?
Waking up at 3am

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Love my V8 super cars.

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Merry go round as I'm actually petrified of heights, would you believe.

What is one thing you will never do again?
Go on a roller coaster

Who is your hero?
Without a doubt, my dad

 

 

Dylan Gosling
Camden and Hunter Valley Crew Champ
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Dylan Gosling

Camden and Hunter Valley Crew Champ

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I started over 9 years ago as a volunteer and then decided that they should be paying me for my talent.
 
How did you become involved in ballooning?
Through my mum, Karen, as she works at Balloon Aloft as well
 
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Well if I don't say working with my mum she will get upset, so yes working with my mum.
 
How many flights have you been on?
I’ve lost count. A few.
 
When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Unfortunately, I have a real job, so you will find me hard at work In Penrith.
 
What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
My mums cooking.. Sorry mum
 
What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat my mums cooking
 
Favourite food?
Not my mums cooking
 
Who is your hero?
Well after the previous answers, I will need to say my mum.

 

Taylor Miller
Byron Bay Balloon Crew and Local Relations Officer
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Taylor Miller

Byron Bay Balloon Crew and Local Relations Officer

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Only recently Since the opening of our new Byron Bay location!

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I love being up early and to witness the first light of the day. Where we live is the first place to see the sun in Australia, the landscape is particularly lush and I think the light play is more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. A complete day to me is where I am outdoors for both sunrise and sunset.

How many flights have you been on?
Too many to count, my boyfriend is a pilot! Certainly a frequent flyer... we should make ballooning frequent flyer cards with upgrade incentives.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Definitely in the Chile part of Patagonia... if that was possible.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
For sure in the ocean, garden or local cafe.

What’s your dream holiday?
Surfing on the Chilean coastline, all left-handers and I'm a goofy.

Favourite food?
Buffala mozarella italian style or creamy avocado... ideally both together!

What’s you nickname?
Tubby Tay ... thats kind of on the lowdown but I was a chubby baby...

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
WARNING - will always see the good in everyone... its a double edged sword.

What’s on your bucket list?
Doing a week long hike somewhere remote, amazing and mountainous ... however one with some groovy huts, a village or amazing food pit stop half way would be acceptable haha.

 

 

Michelle Wills
Marketing Manager
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Michelle Wills

Marketing Manager


How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
Eleven Years

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I was working in public relations and had been involved in ballooning via different jobs. I loved my first balloon flight so when the opportunity came to work for a ballooning company in the Hunter I jumped at the chance.


What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Flying with my husband recently over the vineyards. I also have fond memories of my very first balloon flight at Marty's Balloon Fiesta in Canowindra and enjoying a ride in a tethered polar bear shaped balloon at Milson's Point next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


What is your greatest career accomplishment?  
Submitting and winning Best Adventure Tourism Operator for Balloon Aloft at many Hunter and NSW Tourism Awards.

What’s you nickname?
 Shell

Favourite food?
Salt and Pepper Squid

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Tom Selleck. I am so old! I used to love watching Magnum PI when I was young and had a picture of him on my wall! lol

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?
My son told my husband recently "Dad, Happy wife, Happy life!" He is only nine so I'm not sure where he picked up that line but I definitely agree with him!

Peili (Ava) Zhang
Sales & Accounting Champ
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Peili (Ava) Zhang

Sales & Accounting Champ

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
2.5 years

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with the best team.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
Turkey
 
What’s you nickname?
Lele

Favourite food?
Dumplings

Who is your hero?
My Dad

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Merry-go-round, 100% sure!

 

Amy Fox
Reservations Star & Fun Manager
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Amy Fox

Reservations Star & Fun Manager

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?
I’m coming up to my 10-year Balloon Aloft Birthday, it is amazing that both myself and Balloon Aloft have lasted this long together. #yourstuckwithmenow
 
If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
 I would like to fly over London one day, it might take me a very long time to make that happen but I think that would be really cool.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
I’ll be at the basketball stadium pretending that I’m not to old to still play.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Sarcastic but sweet

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean, please don’t judge me to harshly.

What is one thing you will never do again?
One of those floor drop from under you water slides, worst experience of my life, I can’t believe people do that for fun. It took me 45 minutes to get the courage to do it and after doing it I had massive regrets. #notsofun

What’s your secret talent?
I can whistle and hum at the same time. Yes, I know I’m basically a superhero.

What’s on your bucket list?
The top thing on my bucket list is to go see the northern lights.

When did you get started in ballooning?
I thought I was going for an interview for a position but got there and they were like you start today.

How many flights have you been on?
If you know me you would know that I’m not a great morning person, so it is a lot less then I would like but maybe about 8 or so.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
My favourite memory would be at the finale of our Hunter Valley Night Glow. We are such a small team and all put so much work in to make it happen and to see the balloons glowing and fireworks was amazing.

 

Sally Heggs
Reservations Officer & Young Padwan
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Sally Heggs

Reservations Officer & Young Padwan

How did you become involved in ballooning?
I went for a balloon ride and loved it that much I sought out a job here.

When you’re not ballooning where would we find you?
Suffering at university.

What is your favourite sport or hobby?
Apart from eating, it would have to be cheerleading.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
The relaxed family environment within the office.

What is your favourite food?
Anything covered in cheese.

What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
Durian or snails

What’s your secret talent?
I’ve been a contortionist for 12 years.

If you had a warning label what would it be?
Smart but sassy.
 

Peta Hurley
Does something around here...
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Peta Hurley

Does something around here...

How long have you worked for Balloon Aloft?  
18 years.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Working with a great team of people that are more like family than work colleagues.

If you could take a balloon flight anywhere is the world, where would it be?
I’d love to fly over the Snowy Mountains.

How many flights have you been on?
Probably close to 100.

What is your favourite ballooning memory?
Learning to fly with friends in England.

What’s your dream holiday?
Snowboarding in Canada.

Rollercoaster or Merry-go-round?
Rollercoaster. And then Rollercoster again.

What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
Chicken feet. Tastes like chicken.

What is one thing you will never do again?
Eat chicken feet.

Do you collect anything?
Does cellulite count?

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