Tue12192017

LAST_UPDATETue, 19 Dec 2017 8am

Introducing The Two Sisters Who Became Malaysia's First Female Hot Air Balloon Pilots

The sky’s the limit now for sister duo, Izzati and Atiqah Khairudin after successfully becoming Malaysia’s first female hot air balloon pilots last September.

They earned their Private Pilot License (PPL) in Spain following a month of intensive training, joining only a handful of Malaysians to own a ballooning license.

The sisters have always joked about upping one another in the race to see who gets the licence first. The competitive streak is obvious in this family.

Izzati, 28, and Atiqah, 26, finally settled to be the first female hot air balloon pilots together. It seems fitting enough considering their family history with hot air balloons.

The girls are not the first in the family to do so. Their late father, Khairudin Abdul Rani was the first hot air balloon pilot in Malaysia. Talk about ballooning family legacy!

Malaysian Digest had interviewed these two amazing ladies to discuss their recent achievements, the hot air balloon business, and their hopes and aspirations for the future of the hot air balloon sport in Malaysia.

A Family Of Balloonists

The sisters recalled how they fell in love with ballooning after helping out their late father, a story which they have recounted numerous times but never seemed to tire of sharing with their captivated audience. A childhood filled with giant balloons is always worth a story time.

Khairudin Abdul Rani became interested with hot air balloons in his youth while studying abroad in the UK. His first glimpse of a hot air balloon on a train ride in Switzerland had inspired him along with a group of friends to pursue ballooning as a hobby.

“My father and his group of friends bought a balloon together and they were the first balloonists in Malaysia,” said Atiqah.

Noticing the lack of hot air balloons presence in the country back then, the avid balloonist decided to venture into the hot air balloons business with two other partners. Together they formed AKA Balloons Sdn Bhd in 1995, bringing in instructors from the UK to train local pilots and offering balloon rides to the public.

One of AKA’s first project was for the 150th anniversary of the New Straits Times in 1995 where they had a hot air balloon tour across the country. From there started a growing interests to hold hot air balloon meets in Malaysia.

“AKA called in about 15 balloons from all over the world and did a tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang and Johor,” added Izzati.

That became the foundation for the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held every year since 2009, an annual 4-day event that attracts more than 300,000 visitors.
Izzati and Atiqah have been a part of coordinating and event planning teams of the fiesta since its early formation years albeit not having any prior plans to do so at first. It started out as just helping out with their father’s company.

‘’It never occurred to me that I will take over the company,” she said. “I had an accounting background and by the time I graduated it was just in time for the fiesta. I chose to come in as an event director and from there I started to get more involved with the company,” added Izzati.

‘’For the both of us we didn’t straight away get involved with the ballooning sector of the job but instead more to the technical and event managing aspects of the fiesta,” said Atiqah

On finally putting forth their plan to get their ballooning license, it did not come that much later.

“After a while, we got the hang of it (managing the fiesta) and that’s when we started to plan to get the hot air balloon pilot license,” said Atiqah

“We always talked about being the first female Malaysians to do so, trying to compete with each other for the first spot,” joked Atiqah.

Continuing their father’s legacy, both sisters are now fully involved with the family business while subsequently coming up with other plans to further establish themselves in the community.

MyBalloonAdventures, a spinoff of AKA serves to cater to a more public crowd.

‘’While we have AKA that caters more to corporate events and companies, MyBalloonAdventure on the other hand serves to attract the more direct crowds,’’ said Izzati.

What started as a hobby by their late father has now became a full grown business, with AKA Balloon and MyBalloonAdventure being among a couple of pioneering companies in this field in the country.

Malaysian Pioneers In Ballooning Sport

We tend to associate hot air balloon rides as a fun fair experience rather than a legitimate sport here in Malaysia.

There are a lot of technical details that goes into flying these giant balloons and it’s about time these pilots get the recognition they deserve.

‘’It’s all about skills and luck,” said Izzati.

"Ballooning involves a lot of patience and maneuvering with the surroundings while depending a lot on good timing.

The sisters wished to change the common perception of ballooning in the country, to push forward the notion that ballooning can be more than just a leisure activity.

“We want Malaysians to see ballooning as a new sports avenue,” Izzati hopes to share her passion with others.

“We have plans in the future to offer training programs for people who are interested,” added Atiqah.

They hope that through enough exposure and awareness, the interest for this sport will be able to take off in this country.

On their personal goals as hot air balloonists, there are plans to participate in international ballooning competitions.

“The Women’s Hot Air Balloon Championship will be held in Lithuania next year and we want to be the first Malaysians participating in the event,” stated Izzati.

“We are really interested to compete, it’s just who are,” Atiqah added with a laugh.

Get Inspired By The Magic Of Hot Air Ballooning

“It’s just the clouds, you and the sun.” express Izzati.

The sisters’ passion in ballooning runs deep once you hear their stories from above. It all comes down to their love for flight.

When asked to explain the process of flying hot air balloons, you can’t miss the excitement in their voices while they express the thrill of being up! up! and away.

“We flew in the valleys and over the mountains at over 8000ft!” exclaimed Izzati.

Every flight has been a memorable one as there are always new experiences to encounter.

“We managed to fly above the cloud once, which is technically not allowed by air law, but it has always been on my bucket list, and luckily just so happen that day, the clouds were low enough to fly above on and it was amazing,” added Izzati.

While the sisters do have vast amount of mostly international connections formed since their father’s early days in the hot air balloon industry, they would like to see more local balloonists taking up the sport to get more local participation in hot air balloon events.

“In 2 years I kept telling myself that by the next fiesta I want to see ten local balloons!” said Izzati.

It is really expensive to hold hot air balloon meets now due to the fact that most of the balloonists have to be invited from abroad.

“If we have more local balloons, we are able to easily host our own local hot air balloon events and even participate in other international events,” added Izzati.

The sisters also described their experiences while training in Spain to qualify for their pilots licences.

“You have children cycling towards the balloons as they take off. These kinds of sights are a norm,” said Izzati.

They expressed that it would be wonderful to see the local community being as enthusiastic towards hot air balloons in Malaysia and hope to do their part in promoting the sport among locals.

“What we encourage for people who are interested in taking part with ballooning is to part of the adventure which is by becoming a crew, especially during hot air balloon events. We gave plenty of opportunities to college students during the festivals as volunteers so they can know more about the whole ballooning process,” said Atiqah.

As part of the on-going effort to promote ballooning, MyBalloonAdventure, a side venture of AKA Balloons, aims to conduct flights daily for both local and international visitors.

Nothing beats the thrill of seeing the world from above to instantly grasp the precious world we have inherited and gain a healthy respect for mother nature's powers as we defy gravity to soar to the skies.

As observed by the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates - “Man must rise above the earth, to the top of atmosphere and beyond, for only thus he will fully understand theworld in which he lives”.

- Malaysian Digest

 

MyBalloonAdventure offers balloon rides services for special events like New Year’s Eve celebrations, Valentine’s Day and for both personal and corporate purposes. Bookings will be opened by the end of this month. For more information visit their website at http://myballoonadventure.com/