“Wahhhh…..Kakak ni power la”.
I smiled looking at the 10-year old school girl next to me that candidly shared her response the moment she and other students saw something that they do not get to see every day – a Hot Air Balloon being inflated on their school field.
What probably inspired them even more is the fact that the two pilots preparing the balloon for flight are not your ordinary ‘macho #SuriHatiMrPilot kind of guy pilots’ but two sweet-looking young ladies.
Meet the Balloon Sisters, Nur Izzati and Nur Atiqah Khairudin, Malaysia’s first two female hot air balloon pilots.
The sisters are the heart and soul AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, organiser of the Putrajaya and Penang International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. This time they decided to embark on a different kind of adventure, flying their balloon at different states in Peninsular Malaysia within 60 days with the aim of creating awareness on this interesting branch of aviation. At each stops, the sisters would conduct a free flight with a “local hero” followed by a balloon workshop at the selected schools.
When I first got to know about this remarkable initiative, I know immediately that I got to write about them on AzuanZahdi.com. After almost 9 years of covering Malaysia’s aviation scene, not once that I have written about Hot Air Balloon. I could blame it on difficulties in getting through the crowd during the festivals but this time it is no excuse, I got to go to one of their nationwide tour stops.
Alhamdulillah, on the same week Malaysia Airlines had this Malaysia Day Enrich Redemption promotion and within few clicks, I managed to secure a couple of tickets to Alor Setar to experience first-hand Life On Air in action.
7:00 a.m. on a Sunday, we left Alor Setar city to head further north towards Jitra. It has been drizziling for the last 3 hours and the sights of dark clouds are very much visible. My wife and I knew that there is a high chance that the flight would not happen due to the weather but we had come this far, and we hope to at least get to cover the workshop with the kids.
Arriving at SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, we immediately noticed the level of professionalism that the Life On Air team displays. They are young, they enjoy what they are doing but just like any kind of preparation for flying, it is serious business.
This took my excitement level to a totally different dimension. Milo truck @ school, it’s like everyone’s sweet dream isn’t it?
What we had anticipated turned out to be a reality. The wind was too strong and there was no sign of the rain going to stop anytime soon. But the team still wanted to give it a shot. So it was straight to action to get the balloon inflated while hoping that the weather will eventually improves.
The kids literally rushed down to see what’s going on. Can’t blame them as I was equally (if not more) excited seeing a hot air balloon up-close for the first time.
To kickstart the programme, Life On Air carried out a short educational workshop on hot air balloon. Fun things like how it works, the equipment and what it takes to be a balloon pilot. A casual and fun session led by Pilot Ms. Nur Izzati.
The kids were lucky to be able to learn a thing or two about Hot air Balloon. To be honest, some of the things are new to me as well. At one corner, a few boys are more excited with the progress of getting the balloon ready but most of the kids that I saw were eager to listen and learn what is being shared by Izzaty. During the quiz session, the kids got the answers right which is a positive indicator that they have learned something new. Well done LifeOnAir, mission accomplished.
But no amount of theory is the same as a real life practical experience. When the balloon finally gets inflated, the kids ran straight into ground zero!
Unfortunately it was a short-lived joy. It got a bit too windy once again and the scheduled tethered flight had to be cancelled. Lots of disappointed faces among the kids but I did told some of them, that’s part of the lesson on aviation, no amount of technology can beat kuasa Allah SWT #BilalMudaAzuanMode
The kids however did get to participate in some of the activities. At least some sweet memories that they can talk about when they go back home.
And of course photo op for every single of them which is another nice touch organized by the Life On Air team. I can see hope that some of these kids will one day fly high in Malaysia’s skies.
My wife and I did not get to experience our first flight but we were thankful to be able to participate in the workshop session. It is always nice to add new knowledge and be inspired by educational outreach programmes like this especially when it involves elements of aviation.
I guess we just have to wait a bit longer and achieve our first balloon flight over Masai Mara as what we had always dreamed about 🙂
Special thanks to Life On Air and Ms Atikah and Ms Izzati for allowing us to tag along throughout the morning. I now have better appreciation on Hot Air Balloon and wish you guys all the best in your future initiatives and thank you for adding more colors to the Malaysian aviation scene.
Blue skies ahead!
Find Life On Air here
Website : www.lifeonair.asia
Twitter : LifeOnAir_
Snapchat : LifeOnAir