Next year, 2021, will usher in two milestones for Ipswich’s Graeme Day. It will be 30 years since he lifted off into a career as a hot air balloon pilot – and his 20th year running the business he started with wife Ruth in the Ipswich region.
It all began back in France and as Graeme tells it, it was because he was simply “in the right place at the right time” that he first climbed into the basket of a balloon.
“I was travelling overseas in the UK while hiking in the Scottish highlands… myself and a group of French students all got stuck in a hikers’ hut for a few days due to some bad weather,” he says.
“With not a lot to do in the hut besides talking, I was invited to visit Alsace in eastern France.”
It was while there that he lucked upon an invitation to assist crewing a balloon flight, taking off from the Valley of Munster and flying over the mountains in the Vosges region.
“Needless to say driving four wheel vehicles with picturesque Alsatian villages along the valley floor, and then climbing up into the stunning Vosges Mountains with Alpine forests covered in snow and following hot air balloons, it is very infectious outdoor adventure activity to get involved in,” Graeme recalls.
“I stayed in the region and occasionally crewed for the balloon company. After a couple of months, I was offered full time work as a crew member left them without any crew for the next day.
“I crewed balloons for approximately six months, learnt everything I could about balloons, crewing, the region, the French and Alsatian language.”
As word spread that there was a keen Australian working for the balloon company, many friendships blossomed and doors opened.
More people left the company and Graeme was suddenly offered the chance to train as a pilot.
Having a Scottish mother and thus a UK passport meant he was able to work in Europe at the time and undertake the necessary training – while also learning French as quickly as he could in order to read the operating manual and all-important weather reports in French!
By 1992 he had achieved the necessary hours and received his licence “a proud moment at the age of 25.”
After working in France for six years, he returned to Australia in the mid-90s and worked initially on the Gold Coast before launching Floating Images in 2001.
With brilliant geography and climate, and five major highways leading into Ipswich, Graeme and Ruth pinpointed Ipswich as a perfect place in which to start their own ballooning business.
“Ipswich was then and still is the hub of south-east Queensland,” he said.
“This diverse and beautiful region is set against the spectacular natural backdrop of the Great Dividing Range.
“The historic City of Ipswich is a great doorway to explore this region and is only a 30 – 40 minute drive west from Brisbane’s CBD.
“Ipswich is Queensland’s oldest provincial city with many fine examples of turn-of-the-century architecture and classic ‘Queenslander’ homes.”
The couple’s twins, Kaitlyn and Matthew, have been brought up in ballooning and secured ballooning licenses before driving licences!
“They have been learning the ropes of inflating and deflating balloons when coming to work with Dad, experiencing balloon flights since the age of seven,” Graeme says.
The Day family look forward to the time when Coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they can take to the skies once again.
Until then, balloon flights can be organised for two people at a time (including wedding proposal flights) and for family groups.
For more on Floating Images check them out online.