2012 Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is Bigger this Year!

PHILIPPINE INTERNATIONAL HOT AIR BALLOON FIESTA 2012 – Bigger, better, higher, faster; the superlatives go on and on. Over the four days of last year’s 16th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, over 80,000 people travelled to Clark Freeport Zone to watch what has now become the Philippine’s single largest spectator event.

2012 Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta tour packages
2012 Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta tour packages

Such has been the interest in this annual fiesta that the organizers increased the public spectator areas, added a number of ground and air events and significantly enhanced on-site catering, food outlets, ground displays and static aircraft.

Let’s not forget the purpose of it all! Seventeen colorful balloons from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Holland, Japan, England and Austria. And to add to this spectacle, we had the pair of Upside-down and Upright Festo Balloons from the Netherlands and the big black ‘Darth Vader’ Balloon from Belgium.

Our ballooning friends from the United States flew the snowman-shaped, ‘Mr. Winter Balloon’ and ‘The Little Pirate Balloon’ as well as ‘Mushroom with a View’, ‘Old Mc Donald’s Farm’ and the aptly named ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’ tetrahedron shaped balloon. Twenty-six balloons in total took to the skies each morning and evening in a truly Technicolor spectacle. Certainly a photographer’s dream as professionals and amateurs alike snapped away to get that memorable shot.

Our Fiesta slogan, ‘A Weekend of Everything that Flies’ aptly describes the myriad of flying demonstrations and fly-by. Paragliders from Malaysia and the United Kingdom swooped low in front of the crowds thrilling everyone with their control of their motorized parasails. Twelve of our ultralight pilot friends from nearby Angeles City Flying Club (ACFC) passed in front of the crowds in perfect formation before swooping in low to drop flour bombs and water balloons on the hapless event organizers.

Capt. Maynard Halili and Bill Wright performed truly spectacular team aerobatic demonstrations each day with graceful, exhilarating and breathtaking loops, rolls, chandelles and a host of other maneuvers. Capt. Maynard flew a Bellanca Decathlon and Bill Wright piloted a Vans RV-4. Seldom seen in the skies over the Philippines, these two Philippines residents gave us all a chance to admire their world-class routines.

At slightly lower altitudes, we saw Kite Team Philippines perform synchronized kite displays to a musical score. The Kite Association of the Philippines held ‘Kite’ workshops and by late afternoon each day, the skies above the spectators were filled with hundreds of multi-color kites surfing on the light airs. Kite flying is a very traditional pastime in this part of the world and it is always thrilling to see the both young and old strive to add their ‘flying machines’ to the mix!

Albert Mendoza and Fred Hung (U.K.) both flew microlights joining ACFC during their demonstration fly-bys. Hang-gliders with wheels and a motor most aptly describes these flying machines. But they’re no slowcoaches touching 120kph in level flight!

Fast military jets are often a staple at air-shows. And although we were not able to enjoy the sight of full-size jets blasting down the show line, out radio-control enthusiasts threw their turbine powered jets (the latest thing in radio control models) around the skies. They looked real; they sounded real and they were certainly flown with all the skill and panache of the real thing! Plus, we were also delighted to see scale helicopters and piston powered aerobatic models flown in dramatic aerial displays.

The balloon bursting competition is always hotly contested over the four days of the fiesta. Pilots line up with the runway and attempt to ‘pop’ a balloon released from the ground with their aircrafts’ propellers. The Navy, Philippine Coastguard and many of the training school instructor pilots actively participated in this midday event.

Skydivers, parachutists and wing suit flyers all took their turns to jump out of aircraft orbiting over the field. Barely discernable as the black specks plummeted downward, chutes were popped at a couple of thousand feet and the crowd were treated to multicolor canopies descending gracefully to land within a few feet of their target.

A special treat was an ‘Extra 300’ piloted by former Hungarian aerobatic pilot, Les Vorosmarthy. The plane, specially designed for competitive aerobatics powered it way skywards in front of an ecstatic crowd of onlookers. Inverted flight, outside loops and 8-point rolls showed exactly how this purpose built aircraft could be flown with skill, precision and sheer beauty.

The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is always a magnet for foreign pilots who fly in from around the region. We had a couple of Cessna Citation Mustangs from Thailand, two piper Malibu turbo-props from Japan and Thailand and Cessnas, Pipers , Cirrus, Eclipse and Diamond Aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Sabah.

On the ground, we had a great line up of static aircraft, a section of our showground devoted to flying schools, a section for the military to display a wide range of hardware and numerous groups of hobbyists.
We look forward to the 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2012 to be held on February 9-12, 2012. And our take on this year’s event; even bigger, better, higher, faster!

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