Mike learnt to fly with the RAF Voluntary Reserve while at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University. Later he joined the Royal Navy and continued flying moving on to helicopters. He also learnt to fly gliders before taking up ballooning.
In 1992 he gained his ballooning Private Pilot's Licence followed by a Commercial Pilot's Licence in1993.
In 2001 he set up and ran a successful passenger balloon rides company, Chad Ballooning.
In 2002 he won the Great British Long Jump competition, flying from Caernarvon, North Wales to Wattisham, near Ipswich, a distance of 231 miles.
In 2006 he flew his small balloon to 32,000 feet using a builders bag instead of a basket to save weight. He became one of only seven British pilots to fly a hot air balloon above 31,000 feet. Mike also set five British hot air balloon duration records with a flight of almost 21 hours.
In 2007 he won the Great British Long Jump competition again with a flight from Scotland to Lincolnshire, a distance of 186 miles. His lightweight [14 kg] home built basket made with a board and frame of plastic central heating pipe was tested with success at 19,000 feet. Mike was also presented with the Royal Aero Club Bronze Medal by His Royal Highness The Duke of York.
At the end of 2007, Mike became severely sight impaired, losing 90% of his sight over a five day period due to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a rare condition that affects 100 people, mostly men, in the UK every year. However, since then Mike has accomplished a number of challenging achievements, one of which was to trek the last degree of latitude to the North Pole, raising funds for Blind Veterans UK in 2010.
Although Debbie will be the only pilot of this flight, Mike will monitor the radio and instruments while she sleeps using a specially designed talking computer. He will also be able to support Debbie with his vast wealth of ballooning knowledge.
Besides being a balloon pilot, Debbie is an accomplished elite marathon runner and has competed in 29 races. She is also a successful triathlete. Mental stamina is vital in endurance sport and will be valuable on this flight. In between flying, Debbie owns and runs a successful business in Sussex.
In 2013 she gained her Private Pilot's Licence, took part in the Queen’s Cup Air Race and won The Counties Challenge Trophy.
In 2014 she was awarded the Addams Sparks Trophy (balloon pilot of the year) and also won the Great British Long Jump competition with a flight from near Redruth, Cornwall to Tern Hill, Cheshire, a distance of 212 miles,
In 2015 she flew from Cardigan to Chesterfield and reached a height of 16,700 feet over Wales.
In 2016 Debbie's Great British Long Jump entry was a daring but well planned flight along the south coast of England from Eastbourne to near Crediton, Devon, 176 miles. The flight took her 5 miles south of Brighton, over Selsey Bill, Cowes and ashore west of Bournemouth, then on to her selected landing area.
In 2017 she gained her Commercial Pilots Licence and took part in a record breaking mass balloon flight over the English Channel. A photograph of her balloon displaying the banner for “More Radio” was featured in The Times and news sites around the world including Australia and Canada. She also won the Great British Long Jump flying from Selkirk, Scotland to Woburn, Beds, a distance of 264 miles and reached 75 mph.
Kevin has worked in the aviation industry for more than 40 years.
He joined Dan-Air from college in 1976 and rose to Route Planning Manager. He also gained his Private Balloon Pilot's Licence in 1979.
In 1993 he joined Virgin Atlantic Airways where he became Flight Technical Support Manager. During his time at Virgin he worked on a number of record breaking ballooning and aircraft projects.
In 1997/98 he worked in Mission Control for the Richard Branson, Per Lindstrand, Alex Ritchie & Steve Fossett round-the-world balloon attempts in Virgin Global Challenger & ICO Global balloons.
In 2001/02 he was ATC Coordinator for Steve Fossett's round-the-world attempts which culminated in the first solo RTW balloon flight in The Spirit of Freedom balloon in July 2002.
In 2005/06 he was Mission Control Director for the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer flights, in which pilot, Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo, non-stop around the world in an aircraft and set the world distance record of 22,390 nautical miles.
Kevin was also in the Mission Control teams for David Hempleman-Adams' transatlantic balloon flights in 2003 & 2007.
In 2004 he was presented with the Royal Aero Club Diploma, along with other team members for their involvement in David Hempleman-Adams' 2003 flight by HRH The Duke of York.
in 2006 he was presented with the Royal Institute of Navigation Certificate of Achievement by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
In 2007 he was awarded the Royal Aero Club Diploma, presented by HRH The Duke of York.
Kevin is currently Director of Flight Planning in the team setting up Straightline Aviation who will be operating cargo carrying hybrid airships.
Robin is an very experienced UK balloonist. He has logged a total of 3,800 hours flying balloons all around the world.
Between 1970 & 1974 he worked at Thunder Balloons in London building balloons.
In 1974 he set up The Hot Air Balloon Co. Ltd to fly balloons commercially. This company became Flying Pictures Ltd. He flew countless different commercial balloons at agricultural shows throughout the British Isles. This involved regular liaison with journalists which generated stories in newspapers, radio interviews, TV interviews.
Robin has flown balloons in a variety of TV commercials and feature films all over the world.
Commercials include - Fanta Orange Juice in Brazil. Extra Strong Mints in Switzerland. Rover Cars in South Africa and Smirnoff Vodka.
Films include -
Green Ice – Mexico (Ryan O’Neal’s double), Superman lll – Grand Canyon, USA, (Robert Vaughan’s double), Around the World in 80 days – Yugoslavia. (Piers Brosnan’s double), Un Jour et Une Nuit – Mexico. (Alain De Lon’s double) and Enduring Love – UK.
Robin has flown balloons in 36 countries, across the English Channel 4 times, across the Swiss Alps 4 times in ‘David Niven Cup’ and has been placed 2nd and 3rd in British National Balloon Championships. He spent several years flying passengers at the tented Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya, where the BBC's Big Cat Diary was hosted.
In 1986 Robin taught Richard Branson to fly a balloon. He has also flown several famous passengers including President Carter, Robert Redford, Rachel Stevens, Jasper Carrot, Lulu, Henry Cooper, Sam Fox, Rula Lenska, Raymond Baxter, Lady Mary Donaldson (when Lord Mayor of London), Jacky Ickx, and DJ Reggie Yates. He was also chosen to fly Prince Edward at his 21st birthday party in Windsor Castle estate.
In 2009 he flew Stephen Tompkinson across Africa from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in a series of flights in every country along the way in a TV series for ITV series. He made a similar series in 2010 with Tompkinson across Australia.
Robin has recently been working as Crew Cheif in a consultancy role on the 2019 fim The Aeronauts, starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
Bert is a very successful balloon builder. He and his wife Joanie own and run Best Aviation Services in Bally, Pennsylvania, USA. His balloons hold FAI world records for both hot air and gas balloons. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Balloon Federation of America's Gas Division.
In 2002 he was Systems Director for Steve Fossett's round-the-world flight in the Spirit of Freedom balloon.
In 2007 he built the smallest manned gas balloon ever to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean when David Hempleman-Adams flew from St John's, Newfoundland to Nolay, France.
In 2011 Bert was awarded the FAI Mongolfiere Diploma, the highest honour bestowed on a balloonist worldwide, for his contribution to the sport of gas ballooning.
In 2015 he built the successful Two Eagles Transpacific balloon envelope and was responsible for the logistics, assembly, launch and recovery process. He and Joanie were awarded the Balloon Federation of America's Shields Trauger award for their years of work in gas and hot air ballooning.
Luc is a highly accomplished meteorologist who has worked on several aviation and sailing projects.
He studied physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
In 1974 he began his career as a meteorologist at the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (MRI) in Brussels.
In 1986 he produced a study and synoptic report on the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Luc has played an important role as meteorologist for several major flights and sailing records over the last 30 years. These are just some of them.
1990: The first hot air balloon flight over Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Transatlantic Balloon Flights
1992: “Chrysler 1” winner of the Chrysler Balloon Race (Pilots: Wim Verstraeten & Bertrand Piccard) from Bangor, Maine, USA to Peque, Spain.
2000: “Lorraine Region”. The first French crossing (Pilots: Laurent Lajoye & Christophe Houver) from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada to Saon, France.
2007: "Toshiba Transatlantic Challenge" (Pilot: David Hempleman-Adams) from St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada to Beaune, France.
Round-The-World Balloon Flights
1998 – 1999: All three Breitling Orbiter round-the-world balloon attempts, culminating in the first successful round-the-world balloon flight in “Breitling Orbiter 3” (Pilots: Bertrand Piccard & Brian Jones) in 1999 from Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland to Dakhla, Egypt.
2002: First solo round the world balloon flight in “Spirit of Freedom" (Pilot: Steve Fossett) from Northam, Western Australia to Lake Yamma Yamma, Queensland, Australia.
7 Gordon Bennett Cup Winning Balloon Flights
1999: “Belgica II”, Belgium (Pilots: Phillipe de Cock & Ronny Van Havere). 2001, 2002 & 2003 “Le Petit Prince” France (Pilots: Vincent Leys & Jean François Leys). 2004 “Zero Gravity” USA (Pilots: Richard Abruzzo & Carol Rymer Davis). 2005 Belgium (Pilots; Bob Berben & Benoît Siméons). 2008 “Lady Luck” GB (Pilots: David Hempleman-Adams & Jonathan Manson.
2013 - Meteorological support for the winning French team (Pilots: Vincent Leys & Christophe Houver).
3 America’s Challenge Winning Balloon Flights
2002, 2003 & 2004: (Pilot: Richard Abruzzo).
Arctic Balloon Flights
2000: The Britannic balloon North Pole flight. (Pilot: David Hempleman-Adams) from Svalbard (Spitsbergen) over the Arctic plateau to within 20.6 km from the North Pole in an open wicker basket before returning to the ice floe north of Spitsbergen.
2010: First Rozière balloon flight over the Arctic Ocean (Pilot: Jean-Louis Etienne) from Spitsbergen to Yakutia (Siberia).
Solar Impulse (Solar Powered Aircraft)
2005-2016: Meteorological support for “Solar Impulse” the first solar-powered world tour aeroplane flight.
2005-2010: Preparation work.
2011-2014: Simulations of routing and prototype flying in Europe, North Africa & United States. 2015-2016: World Tour flight from Abu Dhabi (UAE) to Muscat (Oman) – Ahmedabad (India) – Varanasi (India) – Mandalay (Myanmar) – Chongqing (China) – Nanjing (China) – Nagoya (Japan – Kalaeloa (Hawaii US) – Mountain View (California US) – Phoenix (Arizona US) – Tulsa (Oklahoma US) – Dayton (Ohio US) – Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania US) – New York (US) – Seville (Spain) – Cairo (Egypt) and back to Abu Dhabi.
2009: Meteorologist for the Earth Challenge Belgian ultralight flights from Sydney to Brussels.
2001-2002: Meteorologist for the catamaran "Playstation" (Skipper: Steve Fossett) for the following record-breaking sails - The absolute record of the crossing of the Atlantic. The absolute record of sailing around the Isle of Wight. The all-time record for crossing the widest part of the English Channel (Cowes to St-Malo). Fastnet Course Cowes (Isle of Wight) - Fasnet (South Ireland) -Plymouth.
2005: Meteorologist for Maud Fontenoy’s Pacific voyage in a rowing boat from Lima, Peru to Tahiti, Polynesia.
1999: Winner of the scientific prize at the International Weather Festival and the Harmon International Trophy.
2002: Royal Aero Club Bronze Award.
2003: FAI Paul Tissandier Diploma.
2004: Commander of the Order of Leopold.
2005: Medal of the Federation Aeronautics International at the Aeroclub of France.
2016: Solar Impulse World Record Diploma. Abu Dhabi, UAE)
Ground Logistics - Canada
Ulie is an experienced balloon pilot. He has been flying balloons since 2002. He is also a Commercial helicopter pilot and has been flying since 2003. He has 2,400 total flying hours under his belt and has flown in the USA, Mexico, New Zealand, and Canada.
He is also a global drilling contractor and consultant.
He is based near Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada where he co-manages a campground and motel complex.
Ulie was the local team leader for David Hempleman-Adams transatlantic balloon flight from Sussex, New Brunswick to Hambleton, Near Blackpool UK in September 2003.
He is also an avid cyclist.