Cappadocia Voyager Balloons:Overview,Interview

12.05.2014 Cappadocia, Nevşehir

M. Halis Aydogan gets candid with Ankionthemove about all things adventurous and the journey with Cappadocia Voyager Balloons so far!

Kudos to passion and the strength behind following it! Hats off Halis,we love you!
Click here to read my ballooning experience

How difficult was it to convince your parents to start something like this?

I started by 1996 as a tour guide. My father was in tourism business for long time so I grew up in the hotel and so I knew tourism. We have Turkish Aviation Association; they were doing sports flights in different parts of Turkey. I opened my own Travel Agency and we rented 3 balloons of them in 1998 and that was the period we started and it was very difficult to tell people, travel agencies were not much interested, however slowly and slowly, people who flew with us recommended Balloon ride over Cappadocia when they went back, and that by itself grew exponentially in the last 5 years. Like 5 years ago, there were only 10 companies, now there are 25 in the area

So you are also a pilot, how has your journey been?

I love ballooning by the way and it was a business nobody was doing except a civil aviation pilot named Lars Eric Möre With his company. And since I was very much interested to learn and since I had an advantage of being a tour guide, knowing English for communication, knowing all the areas in Turkey, I learnt from him, I had to get a license and so I did.

Initially when you flew, did you have a co-pilot with you?

What the rule says, the moment you are flying the big basket of like 20 people then you need to have a co-pilot with you .Initially yes .But now I am an instructor pilot as well, and have 11 pilots with me including me .I have trained all of them and they fly with me for min 6 months to get an idea and information. There are around 150 active pilots in Cappadocia and we train other company pilots as well.

While flying, does the sights differ every day?

                                                              Snowed out Cappadocia
                One of the reasons why Cappadocia is the best Ballooning site in the world is 
                                           Last year they flew for 328 days in a year
                                               Every year its more than 300+ days
                                 The winds are favorable,Winters or Summer,its a must do!
                                                  Pic By : Cappadocia Voyager Balloons

Every morning is a different flight.

That’s why we change our take off area and depending on the wind conditions; we take off from where we possibly can. Today, you were in main Cappadocia and we didn't go to love valley but yesterday we spent like half an hour in the love valley. We took off from where we did today was because the wind was very slow ,we stayed at comparatively low level space way for taking pictures first before shooting up. With the sunrise, the winds change always so we moved to Red Valley, Rose Valley, Cavusin Old Greek Village and we did the landing. Yesterday because of wind direction, we went to love valley.

In the last 3 years, except from 3 times only on Google map, we landed on different spots.

The thing that pilot can manage - the level of the balloon to be up and down , rest is by winds.

If that is so, how is the crowd in the air managed, keeping in mind that there are 100’s which fly every day?

Pilots interact with each other during the flight as there are 100's in the air.
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That’s why all balloons that we own have 2 radios. They have one to talk to the crew members and another to talk to the other pilots in the area. So we know each other and all the pilots are interacting like “we are above you, we are getting towards you!”

Apart from wind, are there are other conditions that are applicable?

If the wind speed is over 16km/hr we don’t fly. Rain is not a problem, but if it’s raining from the beginning / all day we don’t fly. But if it rains in the middle then no problem , the balloons get wet but the people remain dry under the envelope.

Sometimes when you go up, the weather might turn out to be really windy, in that situation what do you do? Do you land at other place?

It can happen sometimes ,that after 30-45 minutes of flight ,it turns out to be really windy .What we do in our company, before we do the landing, we explain the situation to people, because then the landing might be bumpy(90% of the times landings are gentle) but sometimes it can be windy. So at the beginning of every flight, we teach flight landing position for such situations. Most of the companies do not prefer to fly in strong winds, cancelling the flight, so that’s what we do if it’s from the beginning. Also windy means not slow motion, but it can be harder than normal so the landing area is little less.

Today, you landed on a trailer instead of on ground, why?

That is what I learnt from Swedish Pilot, Lars Eric Möre he was very good with Ballooning techniques .It also is easy then to pull the balloon(90 kg basket + burner and everything) and also the people are impressed. Direct landing on trailer is always easy so you don’t have to carry other stuff.

Personally what other places have you done Hot Air Ballooning?

I flew in Brisbone, Barcelona Spain, Russia.

Doesn't it get boring flying every day?

As I told you, three times only we landed on same spot and no its not boring, it’s exciting for me as it’s my passion.

Why the silver color on your Balloons?

In our company, we use silver colored balloons because its extra strong .In Cappadocia everyone is using fabric which is not nylon but stronger. In Europe they use Nylons which is not as strong.

Also, colors like Red, orange are good for decoration but they fade very fast and are not that strong. We at Cappadocia Voyager Balloons use silver color because it’s double layered and safety for us is the primary reason.

Also we pay attention to cross section of the balloon, even if there is a hole of 2cm above the middle section, it’s a reason enough to cancel the flight. Whereas even if there is a hole of say 3m below the middle section, no problem. For us, safety is important for ourselves and others.

The civil aviation of Turkey they do the checks every morning, checking 5-6 balloons in random, they even do alcohol tests on pilots. Before flying, we have to get up and check the weather conditions in the area.

What are the age, weight, and medical limitations?

Minimum age is 6.People with 2-3 year old kids generally request them if they can fly with them which I strongly not-recommend and explain to them that the reason is “First they would not understand anything from the flight, they would get bored within 5-10 minutes of the flight and would say I want to go back, I don’t want to be here” .I have seen children sleeping in balloons as well. Another thing about the 2-4 year olds is they get scared by the sound of the burner and then they don’t want to be in balloon at all .Also security wise ,It once happened that during a bumpy landing, the father left the child and was putting his camera in the bag ,I grabbed the child and was angry but it’s not recommended for 2-4 year olds.  Also pregnant ladies are not allowed. During one of these flights when we got to know it is supposed to be a bumpy landing while in the air, one of the ladies then said she was pregnant and since I wasn't aware of that before I was very shocked because we couldn't do a bumpy landing then. Then I told the crew members to get extra crew members,10 people hold the balloon and we did a very gentle landing .But as a rule, pregnant ladies are not allowed.

Every basket has a weight limit depending on Balloon size like today with people, with burner and with everything was 2460kgs.

I see awards lined up, what are they?

The awards are from European Balloon Festival in July this year, we were there and we were in the 4th position of the competition there .And we got as the best team,as we had more experience than them because we fly everyday here .In Europe they fly maximum 60 days and maximum they see is around 40 balloons in the air. When it was windy ,we were the only balloons who took off, and that’s why they gave an award.

Have there been any celebrities who flew with you?

There are many people who did, but usually when they come they are there casual self and hence you wouldn't know .Last year there was ‘Brian Atwood ’(the girls love him) and years back were 2 senators from US

Do you cater to customized packages as well for couples,honeymooners,groups etc?

We have balloon for honeymooners for 2 people, we have exclusive balloons .However these small balloons, has one partition and the pilot and everything hangs around them. So I would recommend the one with lots of space possibly the one called deluxe flight which is 1.5 hour and its max 8-10 people flight. The standard flights are bigger baskets in which we can have 20 people .We started 3 years ago comfort flights which are also bigger baskets for 12-16 people.

Do you in future consider sport such as Balloon Jumping?

In 2004,we had people who did balloon jumping in Cappadocia. They were professional divers. It would work but not possible at the moment due to heavy traffic .We can maximum go to 6000 feet as for ballooning now, but for balloon jumping they required 12000 feet of height.

Apart from Cappadocia,are there any other sites of Ballooning in Turkey?

Me @Pamukkale
True,though Pamukkale makes an interesting Paragliding Site
For Hot Air Ballooning Cappadocia is best
As its spread in larger area!

Ballooning happens in Pamukkale sometimes but it’s very rare.

Because when people fly, they want to see balloons in the air along with landscape and that’s when they enjoy most.

At Pamukkale Travertines are situated in small areas.

How many people fly every day and is it popular with Indians?

Happy winter time in the air.
33000 people flew last year with Cappadocia Voyager Balloons

172 people can fly every day, and last year 33000 people with us. There were no limitations last year, we were flying all 9 balloons day to day .This year, we have limitations of 100 balloons, and so every day we can fly ours 7 balloons. Last 5 years, Indians are coming to Turkey, and we have many Indians flying, just 3 days ago we had 3 Indian families flying with us. And thankfully, the Indian families are very understanding when we say that their 3 year old cannot fly, we have our babysitter and they understand.

How many members do you have in your office?

64 people working.

Has your wife been supportive of your endeavors?

My wife, she knows that I do ballooning. She had a flight only once with me. Waking up early is a bit difficult thing for her. She knows I love ballooning and she supports me. But I started many years ago, and just married last year.

If someone from India wants to come and wants to learn ballooning, can they?

Well you too can learn Ballooning

We have a balloon school here and foreign people can apply for the course but they can apply anywhere in the world. The prices in Turkey is higher than any other place, it’s around $18000 to get the first license and it takes longer period of time in turkey to get a license. In Spain, they have a ballooning school that costs around $7000 and with 25 flight training they give you a license. Whereas, here because of the traffic we have, in a day there are min 60 balloons which fly in the air, so the pilot experience stands very important.

Foreign pilots who work in Turkey we ask minimum of 500 hours of flight experience. So even if you come here and get a license its not recommended because in Europe you get cheaper license and you can do easily in Europe than here .We have made a little tough in Cappadocia for safety reasons.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I would say in April and May and Sept and Oct, it’s really busy and high season in Cappadocia .And because of the balloon limitations per day, what I would recommend to Indians is better to book in advance otherwise I have seen people with last day inquiries but not everybody was booked because of limitation. So I saw many people, who came, didn't find the balloon and didn't fly. Or they had to extend their days in Cappadocia to have a flight.

Now that we are done with the interview we explore more sites.This trip of mine took me to depth of Turkey with hiking in valleys to pottery to troy to sea to travertines to even trying something as incredible as watermelon jam made by local communities and stories of fun and flirtation!...Hang on because there's so much more to come :)


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