Flying with Sky High Ballooning
Sky High Ballooning was launched by Chief Pilot Phil Hooper in 2018, but its beginnings may surprise you. Having had an interest in hot air balloons since a very young age, as a child Phil enjoyed nothing more than taking photos of the colourful orbs flying high above him whenever he spotted them. Which in Bristol is quite often when the weather is good!
Eventually, young Phil had quite a collection of photos. But, sitting in albums at the back of the cupboard, they weren’t really doing anything. So, when aged 12, Phil had the chance to create a web page at secondary school, he realised that this was the perfect way to display his beloved photographs. This was when the internet was shiny and new, and he ended up creating a webpage called Phil’s Balloons. This was about as creative a title as 12-year-old Phil could come up with; however, the website gained traction and eventually one local balloon pilot got in touch to ask if Phil wanted to help out with his balloon team one day. Of course, he jumped at the chance and has never looked back since.
Phil took his first balloon flight at the age of 14, while on a work experience placement as part of a hot air balloon team in France. At this point in time, the website had a forum. It was long before Facebook existed, and the forum helped to get likeminded hot air balloon fans into the sport. At one point the website was getting over 1 million hits every year – all to see the photos that Phil took each time he went out ballooning.
Fast forward a few years and Phil began training for his private pilot licence. He enjoyed flying for fun all over the UK and Europe, but, as they say, if you enjoy your job, you never work a day in your life. So, eventually Phil decided to get his commercial pilot licence to enable him to turn his passion into a job. At this point Phil’s Balloons evolved into Sky High Ballooning – a much more professional (and grown-up!) business name.
Phil began flying for local rides companies as a freelance pilot – but also flying some special shaped hot air balloons – most notably a giant fire extinguisher for Chubb to help celebrate their 200th year anniversary! At the beginning of 2021, Sky High Ballooning launched the balloon flight side of the business, taking members of the public on scenic flights over the skies of the South West; helping people to tick off that one thing from their bucket list, and maybe even inspire young Phils watching with awe from the ground below.