Balloon pilot 'safety conscious'

Lance Hopping (left) on a flight over Wairarapa.
Lance Hopping (left) on a flight over Wairarapa.

The pilot of the company involved in the tragedy has been described as saftey conscious and professional.

People spoken to today say operator and master balloon pilot Lance Hopping is one of the most respected balloonists in the Wairarapa.

His company operates out of Carterton near the Paua Shell factory.

Lance Hopping, who was flying the balloon that crashed killing 11 people near Carterton today.
Lance Hopping, who was flying the balloon that crashed killing 11 people near Carterton today.

Hopping gained his hot air balloon licence in 1995 and has over 1000 hours commercial ballooning experience.

He has been flying one of New Zealand's biggest balloons, a Cameron 210, which can carry 10 passengers plus pilot.

Early Morning Balloons released a statement this afternoon, saying it "deeply regret to advise there has been a tragic accident", involving it.

"This tragedy will affect many families and our thoughts and sympathy lie with the families and friends of the passengers and pilot whose lives have been tragically ended," it said.

The company would fully cooperate with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation.

It would not comment further, due to the pending investigation.

"Our hearts go out to those affected by this tragedy."

Balloons over Wairarapa organiser Jonathan Hooker said Hopping was the event's safety manager.

"He was very safety conscious, a very professional pilot," Hooker said.

"It's obviously tragic for balloonists . . . everywhere.

"It's a very tight knit community. All the balloonists know each other."

In its promotional material, the company encourages people to do hot air ballooning over Wairarapa for magical views of mountains, rivers and pastoral land.

"Fly over the lush environment and experience the spectacular sensation of floating through the atmosphere. Savour the feeling of floating quietly over some of the world's best views," the promotional material states.

Flyers are encouraged to meet at the Paua Shell Factory in Carterton in the Wairarapa at dawn.

"Enjoy your flight over the farmlands, and vineyards. Part of the ballooning magic is that you never know where you will land, and you fly only in the calmest conditions where the wind takes you.

"The landing may be in a paddock or near a river or stream. After packing up the balloon, travel to a cafe for a glass of 'bubbles' and a full breakfast to satisfy even the hungriest appetite, then return to the Paua Shell Factory.

The Dominion Post