Up, up and away for Hamilton's Balloons Over Waikato video

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/Stuff.co.nz

The Hamilton hot air balloon took to the air on Friday with pilot Mark Brown and passengers.

It all revolves around the weather. 

Too windy - no flying. Not enough wind - no flying. 

Rain is a definite no, and fog is not good, either.

Hamilton Balloon company pilot Mark Brown is gearing up for Balloons Over Waikato, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday ...
BRUCE MERCER/ FAIRFAX NZ.

Hamilton Balloon company pilot Mark Brown is gearing up for Balloons Over Waikato, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday this week.

So Mark Brown hopes for sunshine, a bit of a breeze and a crisp morning.

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"If I'm not happy with conditions, I don't go up. It's as simple as that.

Brown took a group up in his hot-air balloon on Friday morning, which he described as the perfect conditions for flying.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Brown took a group up in his hot-air balloon on Friday morning, which he described as the perfect conditions for flying.

"Sometimes we get down there, all ready to go, and the weather does a 180. I prefer to not take risks anymore because it's just not worth it."

The Hamilton resident is the only commercial hot air balloon pilot in the North Island.

In 2004, he started as part of a balloon crew, helping to set and pack up the hot air balloons, before learning how to fly.

He now owns the well-known Hamilton balloon seen crossing the sky on clear Hamilton mornings. 

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Flying a balloon is like learning to drive a car. Simple, he said. 

"It's just about learning to put your brakes on at the right time coming up to the lights. You don't want to stop two metres too soon, you want a nice cruise up and just stop. It's about judging that distance."

He said as a learner, you find yourself "over-burning".

"When you first start, you find yourself coming in to land and over burn, missing your landing site because you're too scared of letting it go and it dropping.

"That uses a lot of gas, so you have to be always aware and calm, and make the right decision."

Brown has notched up 1070 balloon rides. 

His process starts two days before, when he checks the weather forecast. If good for flying, he will confirm with passengers. 

On the morning of the flight, the crew lay the basket over and run out the envelope, the material balloon part, and hold the mouth of it open while they fill it with cold air from a giant fan. 

Once inflated, Brown turns on the burners and blasts heat into it until the balloon slowly starts to stand up. 

The passengers all jump in and the balloon slowly ascends. 

"I've seen plenty of proposals, and also people clinging to the side with white knuckles. 

"I just try to keep everyone relaxed and to enjoy the scenery."

He'll want perfect flying conditions this week, with Balloons Over Waikato starting on Wednesday. 

The festival starts with a mass ascension of the balloons on Wednesday morning at Innes Common, Hamilton Lake. 

He said it isn't looking the best from Tuesday, but is hoping the weather holds up.

"It's not hard around this year to become enthusiastic, it's something I always look forward to.

"When you see people coming outside to wave up at you, it's always pretty cool."

 - Stuff

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