Colorful balloons in the grey sky Mass launch at the start of the Balloon Festival in Bonn

Bonn · 40 teams came to the Rheinaue for the 13th annual Balloon Festival. The balloons took off at 7 p.m. into the cloudy skies over Bonn. What fascinates the balloonists about their special hobby? The GA asked before the mass launch on Friday evening.

  The Balloon Festival in Bonn has begun.

The Balloon Festival in Bonn has begun.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

At 6 p.m. there is a shift change for the air traffic controllers at Cologne-Bonn Airport. This is also the starting signal for Hans-Joachim Häuser. On the phone, he explains the flight path of the hot-air balloons with the air traffic controller so that they do not disturb air traffic. Today, the balloon professional has learned that a favorable south-west wind is blowing.

On the first evening of the festival in the Rheinaue, the balloons will fly at an altitude of 750 meters for almost 30 kilometers in the direction of Hennef, explains Häuser. He has been flying balloons for more than twenty years. He is the founder of the company Skytours, which organized the festival this year for the 13th time.

Where exactly do the balloons go on their journey?

Next, the balloons are prepared for their big trip. The smaller ones take 20 minutes to fully inflate with the help of hot propane gas. The hot air balloon that Häuser will pilot today is one of the largest allowed in Germany. "It takes 45 to 50 minutes to get it ready for takeoff," says the 62-year-old pilot.

Häuser, who has been flying balloons for 22 years, cannot say exactly where the journey will take him today, despite all the planning. But that's exactly what he likes about this type of flying: "It's a way of getting around that's close to nature. You can unwind and let yourself drift off." Stress at work is a foreign word for him, he says. Only when landing, he says, do you have to be careful. Then problems can arise, for example if the landing area is too small.

600 guests take a ride this weekend

Around 600 guests are climbing on board the baskets of the balloons this weekend. Only a handful of seats are still available. Anyone who still wants to fly on Saturday and Sunday can ask on location at Skytours if there are any spots left, according to Häuser. Sometimes spots will become available due to last-minute cancellations by other passengers.

The pilots didn't choose the Rheinaue as a launch site without good reason: "When you launch in Bonn, every ride is different," Häuser says with enthusiasm. "From above, you not only see the Rhine, but also an incredible range of shades of green," he recalls of previous rides in the Rhineland.

At 7 p.m., it's "Good luck, good land!" for the balloonists. 40 teams from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland will be taking to the skies with guests. The flight will last 90 minutes. Enough reserve propane is planned for the landing. And how does Häuser feel so close to takeoff?

From banker to hot air balloon pilot

The professional who traded his job as a banker for that of a pilot is quite calm. After all, he has already spent 3,300 hours at airy heights. He is not yet tired of flying: "I enjoy every single ride.” The spectators, who gather in large numbers on the natural grandstand in the Rheinaue in the early evening, will be impressed by the construction of the balloons: the largest balloon has a volume of 13,000 cubic meters. That's as much as 15 single-family houses.

The organizers can be happy with the weather this evening. A few clouds are not a problem. In the event of rain or strong wind, they would have to cancel the rides. When it comes to the weather, the pilots rely on the forecasts of the German Weather Service. To be on the safe side, however, they check information from various weather services before the trip. So that they are well prepared, and they can say, "Good luck, good land!”

Orig. text: Franziska Klaes

Translation: ck

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