Wanted – volunteer hot air balloon pilot

An unusual job vacancy has been advertised in Bristol, to work as the pilot for the Avon Fire & Rescue Service hot air balloon, with the catch that the successful applicant must be prepared to offer his or her services for free. In addition, the pilot must be prepared to take responsibility for the insurance and maintenance of the balloon and will also be expected to provide his own basket and gas to fly the balloon.

The hot air balloon canopy is bright red and sports the distinctive logo of the Avon Fire & Rescue Service, with a white stripe along the bottom which can be changed to reflect various safety statistics or tips, showing a different message each time it flies.

The Avon Fire Service is the only fire authority in the UK to have a balloon, purchasing the canopy for £13,000 in 2007. The cost of flying the balloon is estimated to be around £1,000 a day, including the pilot, insurance, basket and gas. These costs have been met over the last few years from the Fire Brigade’s own resources.

Some controversy has been caused by the purchase and continued operation of the balloon, with some councillors expressing the opinion that hot air balloon rides are more suitable for pleasure and leisure, while fire service chiefs believe that allowing a pilot to use the balloon at no cost to the Fire Brigade, whilst promoting fire safety measures, is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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