In The Beginning

My interest in aviation was sown from an very early age. My earliest memories of childhood were of being ferried around the place in various light aircraft – usually resulting un me bringing up my breakfast or lunch when turbulence hit. I can still conjure the thrill I felt when landing in our light aircraft on that huge runway at Mascot Airport (Sydney) on my way back to Scots. You may ask why I was I so privileged to have this exciting mode of transport – well – my grandfather, Edward Macarthur-Onslow, was one of Australia’s early aviators, who, during the early 1930’s, founded one of Australia’s first private flying schools (Macquarie Grove Flying School) at what is now Camden Airport.

In 1977 I took the sky on my own shortly after my fifteen birthday. This achievement was under the tutoring of gliding world record holder Johnny Rowe at the Narromine Soaring Centre. I had to shout the bar at the Narromine Hotel even though I was still unable to buy myself a drink.

My interest in ballooning was stimulated by the arrival at Camden Airport in 1983 of Peter Vizzard’s and Judy Lynn’s company, Balloon Aloft. In 1987 having recently returned from a long stint of travelling OS, I was offered the job of being part of a balloon team for a promotional contract which involved touring Australia.  This was a fortuitous moment for a young man who had grown fond of the nomadic lifestyle and from this moment on my destiny was cast into the wind. 1988 saw me begin my balloon pilot training, under the incredible instruction of Peter Vizzard (Australia’s only World Ballooning Champion). I subsequently gained my private Pilot’s Balloon License,  and then quickly onward to a Commercial (Balloon) Pilot’s License.

Kiff Saunders
Kiff 1989

A Backpack and a Motorcycle

In 1989 with just a backpack and a motorcycle I took on the role at Balloon Aloft of mobile balloon pilot – this involved travelling to towns and festivals to put on a show or commercial piloting jobs at their various bases. This suited my lifestyle and personality just fine – being on the move is what I loved the most and I could not think of a more wonderful way of working my way towards my are found career.

After working for Balloon Aloft for four years, a simple twist of fate determined that I was required to branch out on my own.  This involved purchasing a small Tasmanian based ballooning company called Balloon North West in 1992 , which was subsequently incorporated and renamed Global Ballooning Pty Ltd in 1996. In my first year of operation as Global Ballooning we flew 589 passengers  – this was in what was regarded as giant balloons that flew eight passengers.

From humble beginnings consisting of one man, a balloon and his dog, GB has grown to employ 25 staff, boast a fleet of 20 balloons and is proudly Victoria’s largest ballooning company, flying over eight thousand passengers per year. In 2014 and 2015 Global Ballooning has been awarded Victoria’s Best Tour and Transport Operator in the highly contested Victorian Tourism Awards.

Some Milestones and Achievements

1989 – Attended as crew chief the World Hot Air Balloon Championships in Saga City – JAPAN

1989 – Invited to be area Manager for Victorian Balloon operations at Benalla, Victoria. Many incredible flights conducted across most of the beautiful North East Victoria and the amazing mountain regions of Acheron, Corryong, Khancoben and Macedon Ranges at Hanging Rock.

1990 – Established commercial Balloon Flights throughout Tasmania for Balloon Aloft – including flights over Hobart, Richmond, Ross, Launceston and Devonport

1991 – Attended World Ballooning Championships in Quebec CANADA as navigator with Paul Gibbs

1991-92 Purchased Balloon North West and began established ballooning in Mansfield and Yarra Valley – recieved commercial pilot instructor rating.

1992 – Established as a consultant balloonist commercial operations in Christchurch NEW ZEALAND

1993 – Attended World Ballooning Championships in LUXEMBOURG with Paul Gibbs (Pilot) – with a few practice flights in Burgundy FRANCE for some additional fun.

1994 – Certified as an Australian Balloon Federation flight examiner

1994 – Established balloon operations in Cui-Heng Village (Zhong Shan) in South East CHINA

1994 – Flew Carlsberg Balloon over Bay of Islands on the Great Ocean Road and also over the Grampians National Park for a Asian Carlsberg TVC. Purchased the new Carlsberg  (Kav 77  VH -AFP) after production completed.

1995 – With two balloons Paul Gibbs (AGFA 77) and I (TAB 140) achieved an Australian first on the 11 of August by being the first hot air balloonists to fly over the Snowy Mountains and Australia’s highest peak Mt Kosciusko.

1995 – attended World Ballooning Championships as a competitor in Battle Creek USA

1996 – worked as consultant pilot to establish NEPAL’s first commercial ballooning operation – Balloon Sunrise Nepal – owned by Everest Balloonist Chris Dewhirst.  This involved passenger flights over the Kathmandu Valley with incredible views of the Himalayan Range.

Kiff in Nepal

1996 – was certified as a delegate of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to issue Commercial Balloon Licences.

1996 – Paterson Saunders is born – and Global Ballooning Pty Ltd is established.

1996/97 – Pre-Worlds and World Ballooning Championships in Saga City JAPAN

1997/98/99 – Encyclopaedia Britannica contract begins conducting balloon promotions right across Australia

1998 – Travel to Chicago USA with Britannica Balloon

1998 – Edward Saunders is born

Balloonist Kiff Saunders preparing a helium balloon , to test wind direction, prior to flying in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

1999 – Flight over Auckland NEW ZEALAND

1999 – Flight over the desert adjacent to ULURU Northern Territory

2001 – Scarlett Saunders is born

2001 – Japanese TV documentary travelling from Melbourne to Darwin including flights over Wilpena Pound, Lake Eyre, Ulara (Uluru), Kakadu and Darwin.

2002 – Inducted into the Australian Ballooning – ‘Hall of Fame’ for services to ballooning.

2006 – Absolute Australian Altitude Record (33,000 ft)

2007 – 3 months flying sojourn in the Loire Valley in FRANCE

Scarlett's First Day of School

2010 – Australian First flying balloons across Lake Eyre South and another flight over the Flinders Ranges

2011 – Balloon Consultant for international ballooning exhibition for the AFC Asia Cup in Doha QATAR

2012,13,14,15 – Established first commercial ballooning operations at the NORTH POLE for Quark Expeditions including test flights in Moscow RUSSIA and a 2000km road trip with balloon in tow to Murmansk.

2013 – Consultant and Management for the ACT government for the Centenary of Canberra ‘Skywhale project’ – including flights at major art galleries around Australia.

2014 – Global Ballooning Australia in conjunction with Burt and Davies wins the Victorian Disability Award for tourism innovation for their designed and certified accessible commercial balloon basket.

2014/15 – Global Ballooning Australia tales out the Victorian Tourism Award for Excellence in the Tour and Transport Category.

2015 – First ever Ballooning over Galway  IRELAND (that anyone can remember) achieved in Skywhale of all balloons – for the Galway International Arts Festival

2015,  co-created and managed the operation of the AFC Asian Cup Soccer Ball (football) balloon to fly over Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

AFC Asian Cup Soccer Ball