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Canberra Balloon Spectacular hampered by not-so-spectacular weather

By Hannah Walmsley with Georgia Stynes, Monday March 20, 2017 - 12:09 EDT
Audience submitted image
Hot air balloons took flight over Lake Burley Griffin on just two days over the festival. - Audience submitted

Balloons took flight over Canberra on just two days during this year's Balloon Spectacular which had been hampered by strong easterly winds.

Thousands of disappointed onlookers turned up multiple times over the nine-day festival hoping to watch the colourful balloons take to the sky.

Balloon Spectacular flight director John Wallington told 's Georgia Stynes the festival experienced its worst run of ballooning weather in its 30-year history.

"I'm really disappointed for the public, the pilots and the passengers.

"We had whole tour group companies who came from Sydney and were booked to fly with the commercial operators.

"I reckon on the first Saturday we probably had about 15,000 people on the launch field.

"The Lions Club sold more breakfasts on a single day than they've ever sold in the history of the balloon festival."

Mr Wallington said big efforts were made to notify the public when the weather was going to prevent the balloons from taking off.

"It's disappointing but it is a weather-dependent activity, which is what makes the whole thing so spectacular when the weather is spectacular," he said.

"In the days when it was a 10-day event, I can remember flying on all 10.

"On this particular year, every single one of the nine days there was an easterly wind."

Is March ideal timing?

Despite the poor outcome, Mr Wallington said he was not concerned the about the future of the festival.

"This year there was a genuine resurgence in local interest and a dramatic increase in interstate interest," he said.

"Where else in the world can balloons take off from in front of Parliament House and float across the city.

"I can remember fire bans and frosts at the time of the festival in previous years, so there's nothing new about variability.

"It was just an extraordinarily unfortunate run of weather."

March is favoured by festival organisers so the event can run before the end of daylight savings.

"By holding it before the end of daylight savings means the public can get up that one hour later," Mr Wallington said.

"If we shift the festival to the first week in April, for example, the whole thing would be an hour earlier because balloons need to fly on sunrise to take advantage of the calm conditions.

"March usually really is a very good month for ballooning."


© ABC 2017

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