People with mobility access requirements can now enjoy the freedom of flight in NSW’s first wheelchair accessible hot air balloon.
The balloon, operated by Balloon Aloft, has been supported by the NSW Government and Cessnock City Council, to support equitable tourism experiences for those with disabilities and their support networks.
The accessible balloon basket has an access door, for ease of access and eliminating the need to climb aboard the basket. The accessible basket also offers customized seating and harnesses.
Australian balloon manufacturer Sean Kavanagh of Kavanagh Balloons said designing and building the state’s first accessible balloon basket has been both a challenge and a privilege.
“The biggest challenge was ensuring we could engineer a wheelchair accessible balloon basket that was safe, so we locally designed and built a basket with a door and cushioned seating with restraint systems and a multi-point harness,” he said.
“We’re very proud to be involved in this project as hot air ballooning is our passion, and one of the greatest things about our business is being able to share that with other people, and everyone should be able to experience a balloon flight.”
Hunter Valley local, Vietnam veteran and self-confessed dare-devil David LeBrocque, was onboard the official first flight in his wheelchair.
“I know this opportunity will open up avenues for other adaptive adventure seekers out there, and for them to see a person with a disability like mine do this and know they are able experience the same thing is very exciting, I am truly humbled to be the first flight participant.”
Pilot and General Manager Matthew Scaife said Balloon Aloft, which has been based in the Hunter Valley for 43 years, is excited to be launching a tourism experience that will enable people with limited mobility to experience the thrill of hot air ballooning.
“We believe everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy this amazing experience and our new balloon will make that possible for more people than ever before and it’s wonderful to see this come to fruition with the launch of our Hunter Valley Accessible Balloon Flights,” Mr Scaife said.
The balloon boosts the number of accessible and inclusive tourism experiences available in the Hunter Valley region and will further ensure the sustainability and resilience of tourism in this picturesque part of NSW.
https://www.nsw.gov.au/departments-and-agencies/department-of-regional-nsw/news-updates/new-accessible-tourism-experience-takes-flight-hunter-valley New accessible tourism experience takes flight in the Hunter Valley