Teenage pilot set to fly at fiesta after being given her own hot air balloon
A trainee pilot is set to fly at Europe's largest annual meeting of hot air balloons after being gifted her own envelope.
Alyssa Pitt, 18, has been an avid ballooning fan since she was a small child and embarked on her first flight at the 2012 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta when she was just seven.
The event, at Ashton Court Estate, was sponsored by property firm JLL – whose black, white and red balloon has been a feature in the city's skies for years.
It has now been given to Ms Pitt to fly for its final 12 months of use, before it is retired and recycled in 2024.
Ms Pitt, who has been a crew member for pilots and teams in Bristol since she was 11, is working towards her private balloon pilot's licence.
“I first saw the balloon back in the early years for me at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta when it was the head sponsor,” she told the PA news agency.
“That was the year I had my first flight and became hooked on ballooning. Being in my position with this balloon is such a special feeling and fate – I am so grateful for the opportunity.
“I had a buzz after my first flight aged seven but didn't really understand what being a pilot meant.
“When I was 14, again at the fiesta, the pilot I was crewing for let me have a go at using the burners.
“I found it amazing and was then asking how everything worked. Then I started to really want to train and learn how to fly.”
Ms Pitt began to build up her flying hours aged 15, ahead of taking her private pilot's licence.
Applicants must complete 16 logged hours with an experienced pilot and sit exams to qualify, which they can do at the age of 18.
After leaving secondary school, Ms Pitt worked to buy everything she needed to own and operate her own balloon such as the basket, burners and trailer.
She built up more than 20 hours of flying before the Covid-19 pandemic but these were lost as the licence requirements must be completed within a two-year period.
“I now need to build up all those hours again and sit my written exams,” Ms Pitt said.
“With the help of JLL I now have my own balloon so it will hopefully be a lot easier to achieve this time.
“It's an incredible gift. I will hopefully be flying at the fiesta this year and it means so much.
“Going from being a child in the crowd to now saying I own one and can fly from the event as a private pilot is such an amazing thing.
“Part of me is still in shock. I'm so excited and can't wait for the feeling on that first flight in it.”
Oliver Paine, head of capital markets UK regions at JLL, said the company was “thrilled” to help Ms Pitt.
“The JLL balloon has been a mainstay in the skies above Bristol now for many years,” he said.
“The envelope is now nearing the end of its lifespan and next year it will be retired and recycled.
“We can think of no better way for it to spend its final 12 months, than in the hands of a promising young pilot. We're thrilled to help Alyssa realise her ambition.”
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is due to take place this year between August 10 and 13.