The Cambridge balloonist who learned to fly in a backyard

Chris Bransgrove’s RE/MAX balloon takes off. Photo: Amelia C Rose

He’s flown in Albuquerque, Fiji, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and has owned five balloons in the 33 years he’s been flying.

Cambridge man Chris Bransgrove flies the RE/MAX balloon, after his passion for hot air balloons started because of a television advert.

Bransgrove was at the Hamilton mass ascension this morning with his wife Wendy, who works as the crew chaser.  

“We’ve been to probably every fiesta that’s ever been on in New Zealand, apart from the last three years we haven’t been at this one,” Bransgrove said.

He was excited to be flying this morning.

“Every flight is a good flight.”

Bransgrove got into ballooning after watching it on TV.

He phoned around until he found out where he could get involved.

He eventually found Andy Nicholson, who lived only three or four kilometres away from him.

“I went to him and said, how do I get a ride in a balloon, and he said, you’ve got to buy one,” Bransgrove said.

Nicholson knew of a balloon for sale in Christchurch, so Bransgrove bought it and Nicholson taught him how to fly it in his backyard.

Bransgrove is a Cambridge local, but his RE/MAX balloon was built in Bristol, England.


Chris Bransgrove has been flying for 33 years. Photo: Amelia C Rose

There are eight pilots who live in Hamilton.

His flying highlight was in Albuquerque, where 800 balloons take off every morning.

“I think it is a must do for every pilot, you must do it at least once.”

All the NZ balloon pilots know each other, and they often get together.  

Bransgrove wasn’t the only one excited about the mass ascension today.

Wade Phillips bought his sons to the morning ascension for the first time ever after hearing about it from friends.

His oldest son, who is four, couldn’t wait to come, said Phillips, waking up every hour to ask if it was time to go.

“He woke up at half past eleven last night asking, is it morning yet?” Phillips said.

The weather cleared beautifully and by 8.30am the Remax balloon was in the air.