Blown Away

Written by Roxanne Hughes

Written by Roxanne Hughes

Could hot air balloons be the latest must-have toy for superyachts? Let’s take a look at the company trying to elevate luxury to new heights.

Luxury and adventure lie at the heart of the superyacht experience – cruising along coastlines and towards new horizons in supreme comfort. And a superyacht can serve as a vessel from which any number of activities can be enjoyed. Hot air ballooning, however, is a new one on me…

Global Compass Marine has spent two years developing the concept, assessing the operational requirements, training, storage, and insurance needed to make hot balloon flights from the aft deck a reality.

Peter Bird, Managing Director of Global Compass Marine, and commercial hot air balloon pilot himself, highlights four ways in which hot air balloons could be used by superyachts. 

The first, is with a tethered flight from the deck. Eliminating the risk of the hot air balloon travelling too far from the mothership, this has particular appeal for night-time use when it becomes a stunning visual display in its own right.

Another option is a free flight that sees the balloon lift off from the deck and land back onboard – the ideal scenario perhaps, but only possible in absolutely perfect weather conditions…

Negating the weather, the third method for use is a free flight from the deck with a landing ashore, which certainly makes a change from bouncing along in the tender. In this instance, a retrieval team would need to be onshore waiting to collect the balloon (and the guests, if they’re not continuing with other land-based excursions).

And, finally, you have traditional land-based hot air balloon flights that are arranged to align with the yacht’s itinerary. Whilst this option doesn’t require a yacht to carry its own balloon, and could be coordinated with a company ashore, having your own balloon offers significantly more flexibility with a number of launch sites available. It’s an incredible way to peruse scenic locations along the coast and admire your yacht from another vantage point.

So what’s needed for the idea to take flight? Global Compass Marine has designed specialised equipment and storage solutions for the use of hot air balloons aboard superyachts. The traditional wicker basket has been replaced with a collapsible, more transportable basket, allowing it to be easily dismantled and transferred between superyacht and shore by tender. A gas storage system has also been devised for the safe storage of LPG onboard.

When it comes to use, comprehensive training is essential, as is adherence to a meticulous maintenance and operations manual. Global Compass Marine has created a training program that will ensure captain, crew, and balloon pilots are well versed with the unique dynamics of ballooning from a superyacht.

As with all aspects of superyachting, and indeed hot air ballooning, safety is of paramount importance. Global Compass Marine work with the captain and crew to conduct a thorough risk assessment and support them in the implementation of any measures needed to mitigate risk, which are approved by both management and flag. 

Whether a yacht that’s equipped with a hot air balloon inflates it on deck (on a heli-deck is ideal) or does so on shore due to limitations of space, selecting the right commercial pilot is crucial, and this is another area where Global Compass Marine are on hand to assist, along with any permissions and permits required from Civil Aviation Authorities.

It’s a pretty ambitious notion, but one we’re interested to see get off the deck…


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