31 dirigibles to join 21st Hot Air Balloon Festival

CLARK FREEPORT — Thirty-one hot air balloons from 14 countries are expected to color the skies on Feb. 9 as the 21st Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) starts its 4-day balloon festival here.

Organizers said countries in Asia, Europe, and North America are expected to participate in this year’s signature event to be held at the Omni Aviation Complex.

More than 100,000 foreign and local visitors are expected to troop during the four-day event from Feb 9 to 12.

Aside from the hot air balloons that will hover the skies inside this Freeport, PIHABF’s Weekend of Everything that Flies — will also be a gathering of aviators from around the world for the four days of flying action. Pilots will showcase their skills in these aviation events.

Aerobatic pilots are expected to perform stirring flying maneuvers and choreographed routines never been seen in normal flights. The aerobatic show will be led by pilot Sean Clarke aboard his Champion Decathlon.
According to PIHABF lead organizer Joy Roa, there will be balloon bursting event which is one of the most anticipated events at the Fiesta. In an exciting demo of precision flying, pilots fly a light aircraft over the runway and attempt to burst small, helium-filled balloons released from the ground. Apart from entertaining the crowd, the activity enhances the pilot’s eye and hand coordination skill and sharpens his anticipation and use of aircraft controls, Roa said.

Visitors will also be given a treat as there will be formation flying which is always an amazing sight for onlookers. For pilots, it helps train their airspeed control and situational awareness, Roa said.

“This balloon fiesta is expected to be bigger and more colorful to help Clark transform into a tourist haven north of Manila,” Roa said.

The hot air balloon fiesta started in 1994, with the main goal of jumpstarting the local economy and uplifting the morale of communities in Central Luzon, after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Under the leadership of then Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Mina Gabor, 21 balloon pilots from 10 countries showcased their balloon flying skills, with Capt. Joy Roa leading the delegation and DOT Regional Director Ronnie Tiotuico as lead organizers.

What began as a passion project evolved into the longest-running sports aviation event in Asia. More than just a spectator event, the fiesta’s longtime objective is to instill discipline in participating young pilots so they can develop into safe aviators, as well as to impart a spirit volunteerism and cooperation to the whole community, Roa said.

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