Wakatipu balloon firm up, up and first

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Queenstown’s Sunrise Balloons is the country’s first hot-air balloon company to gain a controversial new adventure aviation certificate. 

A week after the May 1 deadline, it’s still one of only two balloon companies able to operate, along with Kiwi Balloons in Hamilton. 

Sunrise Balloons pilot Carrick McLellan says he’s delighted to be first to achieve the new certificate. 

The process was “pretty rigorous and pretty lengthy,” he admits. 

“We’re not complaining about it but it is a bit of rigmarole, to be fair.” 

The company’s application covered topics like training, quality assurance, audits and maintenance. 

Civil Aviation Authority last week blasted some Queenstown adventure aviation companies for their tardiness in applying for new operator certificates. 

The certificates are required under new regulations announced last November. 

CAA spokesperson Emma Peel says other hot-air balloon applications have come in late, including one last week.
“Several have had their applications returned as incomplete.” 

Meanwhile, McLellan recently carried Dominique de Montgolfier, who is hot-air ballooning royalty. 

De Montgolfier is a direct descendant of French brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, who launched the first hot-air balloon in 1783 – their passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. 

De Montgolfier was in a French party who took a trip over the Wakatipu Basin. 

“He was pretty low-key, it was one of his friends who disclosed his origins,” McLellan says. 

“He loved the flight, he was pretty stoked to choose Queenstown as his place to go fly in New Zealand – he’s only ever done it before in France,” McLellan says. 

Sunrise Balloons was started by his father Hugh 13 years ago and has since done about 1600 flights.