40 years of hot air ballooning in the Pays-d'Enhaut

Fri, 11. Oct. 2019
(Sonja Wolf)

On Saturday 5 October, the National Alpine Centre for Hot Air Balloons (Centre Alpin International de Ballons à Air Chaud or CAIBAC) celebrated its 40th anniversary with members and friends.

2019 is a real anniversary year for the aviation industry in the Pays-d'Enhaut as it’s the 20th anniversary of the first non-stop circumnavigation of the world with the Breitling Orbiter III, the 40th anniversary of the International Balloon Festival (Festival International de Ballons) and also the CAIBAC’s celebration of its 40th anniversary. During the International Balloon Festival, which takes place every year in late January, one flight is always dedicated to the CAIBAC. 

The 5 October focused on the festivities and should have started with the launch of five balloons, but the weather unfortunately prevented this brilliant opening from going ahead. 

Interesting facts about the CAIBAC
The official ceremony took place in the afternoon for members and friends of the association. François Chappuis, president of the CAIBAC, first mentioned some of the association's key points: "The CAIBAC has 50 members, who are mostly pilots, but there are also non-pilots and the fleet has three balloons, which are mainly used for recreational flights or advertising purposes. These are on display at the International Balloon Festival in all their glory. Also, they’re on show at balloon festivals in Romorantin in France, Bristol in the UK and Sint Niklaas in Belgium. The three characteristic hot-air balloons represent the picturesque region of the Pays-d'Enhaut”.

International success 
The president congratulated the pilot Nicolas Tièche, who, together with his teammate Laurent Sciboz, won the 63rd Gordon Bennett. He’s also the reigning world champion in gas balloon flights. The world champion from Château-d'Oex is one of only about 150 gas balloon pilots in the world. Two years ago, he set the world record for distance flights in the America Challenge, with the 3600 kilometres he covered. 

The CAIBAC today
Association members still meet regularly and often fly abroad. For example, at the end of August, President Chappuis was in Lebanon with eight pilots, two Lebanese and six Swiss balloons, one of which was from the CAIBAC. This occasion marked the recording of the programme Top Chef Arabia. The candidates got off to a spectacular start with a hot air balloon flight in front of cameras. 

Training as a pilot
For anyone who’s ever wanted to become a hot air balloon or gas balloon pilot, CAIBAC president François Chappuis and world champion Nicolas Tièche are two of the four teachers in the largest balloon school in Switzerland (Groupe des Aérostiers de Friborg). They’re also the only four flight instructors in French Switzerland. Compliance with legislation, radio contact and balloon license costs are all similar to licensing a helicopter or a small plane. 

Based on AvS / Sonja Wolf
Translated by Justine Hewson

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