The FINANCIAL — The First Aeronautic Club in Georgia will take part in the Hot-Air Balloon flight over the Black Sea. The authors of the idea and organizers of this event are the First Aeronautic Club (Georgia), Kyiv Ballooning Society (Ukraine), and Kubicek Hot-Air Balloons & Airships (Czech Republic). As the officials of this event note, a Hot-Air Balloon over-flight of the Black Sea is an outstanding event in world aviation history.
“The hot air balloon will fly from Ukraine to Georgia. It will take off in the south of the Crimean Peninsula and land near the city of Batumi. The length of the flight is around 900 km,” Organizers of this event noted.
According to Revaz Uturgauri, President of the First Aeronautic Club in Georgia, history of air navigation started on a day in November 1783, when thousands of Parisians gathered in the Tuileries Gardens to watch the first ascensions of the Montgolfier and Charliere balloons. There even happened to be one Georgian in the crowd.
“His “Word on Aeronautics” to Czar Irakli can be found in the Manuscript department of the Georgian State Museum of History. Our fellow countryman describes these flights in detail, supplementing his story with skilful drawings. What’s particularly noteworthy is that in addition to such important details as the structure of the balloon, the fuel used, and so on, the Georgian tells his Czar that the pilots took wine with them on the flight, whereby he relates the exact number of bottles,” Uturgauri said.
According to First Aeronautic Club officials, the first modern AX-7 hot air balloon appeared in Georgia in 2000. It was manufactured by the Avgur Company for the Russian ORT TV Chanel, but was soon bought by Georgian businessman and taken to Tbilisi. On 5 November, 2000, at the Tbilisoba (Tbilisi City) celebrations it was taken up into the air. In 2005 and in 2006, two AX-8 balloons went up in Georgia, the St. George and the Lion.
“Since this time, the development of ballooning in our country has become systematic: the First Aeronautic Club was founded. The Civilian Aviation Administration issued the Club the status of an airline with the right to create its own pilots school and maintenance centre. Between our club and airline companies there is absolutely no difference in the sight of control, responsibility towards people and responsibility towards aviation government,” Uturgauri said.
“All of our air balloons have a license for being valid to fly. Our balloons have their board numbers, radio connection. When in the air, we are always in contact with Georgian air navigation. We have our own pilot school, which has a license as well. In order to become a professional you should study for one and a half years in our school. After finishing the school our pupils receive diplomas and certificates. We also have our own technical centre which undertakes current repairs and systems checks of the technical condition of aerostatic aircrafts and estimates their compliance with the established standards,” Uturgauri said.
According to Uturgauri, hot air balloon flight is as safe as travelling in an airplane. The technical systems are very simple and there is almost nothing that can go wrong in the system. Balloons can only travel with the wind. So we study the prevailing winds at different elevations and select a take-off site that will provide the best flight-path possible. The pilot ascends and descends to find air currents that are moving in the desired direction,” Uturgauri said.
“We have chosen a special safe destination for flight which is the Mtskheta-Bazaleti-Mukhrani trip. We are flying in different directions. We may start the trip from Digomi, fly to Mtsketa and take-off in Mukhrani. We are normally in the air for about 1.5-2 hours,” Uturgauri told The FINANCIAL.
“It’s not a cheap pleasure, but the prices that we offer to our clients are 30% cheaper than any other companies in different parts of the world. 3 persons and one pilot are able to sit in one balloon. The price of a tourist trip in an air balloon is 990 GEL. 3 people may divide this sum so that each of them is paying 330 GEL,” Uturgauri said.
According to Uturgauri, friends often surprise one another on their birthdays with air balloon trips. He says that the view from an air balloon is fascinating.
“Sweethearts also use the opportunity of an air balloon trip to tell each other about their feelings. In summer it’s best to start a trip in a balloon at 5-6 o‘clock morning or at sunset aroumd 6-7 o’clock in the evening. In winter flying in the air balloon can be arranged for any time according to the weather and wind direction,” Uturgauri said.
As Uturgauri says, air balloons are often used for advertising. Company Magti was one of the first clients to use air balloons as a means of advertisement.
“When balloons fly in the air, everyone looks at the sky and take photos of these balloons, then they show these photos to each other. What could be a better advertisement for a company?” Uturgauri said.
“The economic crisis interrupted our activities greatly. Or club wasn’t alone in being harmed by the crisis, as it affected the whole world. Recently there have been some changes in the situation and improvements. In terms of advertising we have tight relations with the companies Magti and Toyota who are our loyal clients. We take part in their organized events and advertisements. We have had some negotiations about selling our air balloons to wide commercial structures existing in Georgia as well.
“Our air balloons take part in different events like in Gudauri, when for the end of the skiing season, organizers ordered our balloons for advertisements. Last year at Tbilisi Open Air we also took part in the arrangements. Film director Otar Ioseliani used our air balloons in his film Chantrapa, when the main actors flew in the air with our air balloons to an unknown destination,” Uturgauri said.
As Uturgauri says the First Aeronautic Club is an official dealer of one of the biggest hot air balloon and dirigible manufacturer Kubicek Balloons and Airships in the Caucasus Region.
“With our assistance you can obtain both brand new and used balloons and dirigibles and accompanying equipment. An order to manufacture a new balloon, depending on the complexity of its design will take 1.5 to 2 months to complete,” Club officials noted.
“For the nearest future we plan to add some more tourist trips to our list of safe destinations. We are working on that at the moment,” Uturgauri said.