As children, one of the most popular professions for a wide-eyed kid of big dreams was to be a pilot. That is, until you realise the amount of training that goes into being one, and for those of us who don’t have twenty-twenty vision, we can only dream of piloting any sort of aircraft. Additionally, for some people, a hot air balloon is a trip you’d check on your once-in-a-lifetime bucket list. But for two sisters in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, it’s an incredible day job.
Meet Izzati, the CEO of AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, whose company just launched the 9th MyBalloon Fiesta from the 10th to the 12th of March. The event itself comprised of seventeen balloons from eleven countries, and crowds flocked Desa ParkCity in celebration of all the colourful designs and amazingly shaped balloons in the air. Izzati and her sister, Atiqah are well-known as Malaysia’s first female hot air balloonists, and I had the opportunity to interview Izzati on what it’s like to soar through the skies on a regular basis.
1. Who are you and what exactly do you do?
I am a hot air balloon pilot and the CEO of AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd.
2. Why pilot hot air balloons specifically?
Hot air ballooning has always been in our family because our father was a balloonist himself. My interest started to grow when I was involved in organising the Putrajaya International Fiesta back in 2009 and the rest was history. The thing I love most about flying a balloon is that I am unable to control the direction and the flight route and that I leave my fate to nature and let it take me to unknown places.
3. What was your first experience in a hot air balloon like?
Unfortunately I cannot recall my first experience in a hot air balloon as I was very young. I was 7, I think. But I do remember the first balloon festival my late father organised, and it was a night glow show in Dataran Merdeka, and I remembered how amused I was at the sight of all the balloons in one space. My dad carried me into a basket at that time while another pilot did the night glow show.
4. What were some of the challenges you faced in your journey to establish MyBalloon Adventure?
Because we are the first of its kind, being the first hot air balloon commercial ride provider in Malaysia, it took us 2 years to finally get approval from the Department of Civil Aviation and other relevant authorities to be able to establish ourselves. We also wanted to set a high standard in terms of safety and also quality of service being provided to our customers, so we had to make sure we paid close attention to details and worked very hard in building relationship with partners and passengers.
5. What are some of the comments you get when you tell people about your profession?
They would usually be surprised, and mostly they’d say, “That is SO cool!” and “I wish I had your job because you are travelling so much.”
6. To be honest, I’m quite terrified of heights. How would you convince someone like me to go on a hot air balloon flight?
Well, we have had passengers who were afraid of heights. But once in the basket, the serenity and the calmness of the wind, with the breathtaking view of Putrajaya and the sunrise usually takes their minds off the height.
7. If you could use flying a hot air balloon as a metaphor for life, what would it be?
When flying a balloon you know where you are going to fly from, have total control of when to go higher and when to descend. You know your general heading but never know where you are going to end up.
8. What is MyBalloon Fiesta all about?
Myballoon Fiesta is an annual hot air balloon event that takes place every March. My late father started the meet in 2009. During this meeting, balloonists from all over the world congregate in Putrajaya. For this year it was held in Desa Park City to experience flying in our country. The beauty about the balloon fiesta is that every year we invite different balloons in various shapes and sizes to be showcased during the event. Other activities are also available to the visitors, such as a food bazaar, cultural show and children’s activities like zorb ball and reverse bungee.
9. Finally, what would your advice be for those who aspire to leave the beaten path and pursue something extraordinary like you?
I would say go for it! It may not be easy and the road is going to be hard and winding, but if you are honest and passionate enough, things will work itself out. Just remember to have fun along the way; that’s very important. You will be surprised, because when you finally achieve something it can sometimes feel like an ‘anti-climax’ because you worked so hard before you finally realize that it’s not about the destination; it’s all about the journey.
For more information regarding their services, visit their website at http://myballoonadventure.com/