Blues skies for tourists


Methven hot air balloon operator Graeme Church reckons the views of the Canterbury Plains, foothills and mountains at 6000 feet (1829m) are hard to beat on a good day.

Mr Church runs Adventure Balloons NZ and takes the public on 60-minute scenic flights that offer a bird’s eye view of the lay of the land below.

Flights usually take place in the early morning when weather conditions are calm and stable and that can happen year round.

Mr Church hails from northern England, but has piloted hot air balloons in Methven for the past 15 years on and off.

He worked for long-time balloon operator George Currie for a number of years and three years ago set up on his own.

He runs four balloons, the latest an import from Spain which he brought over in February; it can accommodate 12 passengers.

The balloon was tested a couple of weeks ago and is awaiting its final certification papers.

Mr Church also has a medium balloon that can carry five passengers and a small training balloon that can take the pilot plus two others.

His fourth balloon is a special promotional balloon in the shape of a RAC (Royal Automobile Club) van, that comes from the UK.

Mr Church piloted balloons over the scenic Lake District in England for many years, but is now considering New Zealand as his long term base.

“The great thing about ballooning over Methven and the surrounding area is that it is protected to a large extent by the Southern Alps.

“There can be light winds year round, and although I did more balloon flights this last summer, this area in the winter and with snow on the mountains is a sight to behold.”

Mr Church said three-quarters of his customers were usually from overseas, but that would change in the coming months.

With the promotion of domestic tourism, he hopes more Kiwis will take flights and will jump in a balloon to enjoy the exhilaration and thrill of floating above the land.

Like a number of Methven businesses, he is a supporter of a campaign run by Mt Hutt skifield that promotes a “kids for free” package.

Youngsters aged five and upwards are able to go on a balloon flight with their parents.

More information on ballooning can be found on the Adventure Balloons NZ website.

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