Mathieu PERON pilot Art Montgolfières
Having grown up in the Paris region, I discovered the world of hot-air ballooning late in life.
I didn't witness my first hot-air balloon take-off until I was 18. I was visiting my cousin in Touraine. A balloon pilot and company director, he offers first flights in a hot-air balloon in the Loire Valley region. I immediately found it grandiose. A magnificent, magical adventure in close contact with nature. I got closer to my cousin to find out more about this machine, which left me dreaming. A few months later, I decided to start pilot training in 2006, and obtained my pilot's license in 2007. I then began my career as a professional pilot with my cousin's company. I first flew in the Eure et Loir region, and after a few years' experience in the Loir et Cher as chief pilot.
In the Centre region, flights are organized from spring to autumn, the most favorable periods for hot-air ballooning. Winter is also a time of rest, but after enjoying the family, we miss flying. Flying is above all a passion, and once you've fallen into it, you can't do without it for very long. That's why, from 2016 to 2019, I took part with friends in the Les Saisies meeting in the French Alps. Flying in the mountains allows you to gain a richer experience while enjoying absolutely fabulous scenery.
Flying with passengers and flying in a meeting are two fantastic experiences. Meetings are quite different from passenger flights. There's less contact with the public. The primary aim is not to fly over an exceptional site like Chenonceaux or Vaux-le-Vicomte. I've been lucky enough to take part in a number of meetings, notably abroad, such as Paestum in southern Italy in 2017, and more recently in Quito at the Mitad del Mundo site in Ecuador in 2022;
The meetings are also an opportunity to exchange ideas with other pilots and organize chalenge flights. In January 2019, with 3 other pilots, we set out to cross the English Channel from England to France with two hot-air balloons. There were two pilots per balloon. As is often the case, we had to wait for favorable weather conditions, but for this particular flight we also needed very specific wind directions. We managed to complete the crossing in 1h30! Having never done one, I first wanted to have a ground approach. I joined a team of friends as a ground crew member at the 2018 French championships. The conditions are more technical. It's not about flying for pleasure, but about skill training to achieve specific goals. The shape of the balloons is also different, for an ergonomics adapted to the technique of competition flying.
I'm very lucky to combine passion and work. Today, with over 2,000 flying hours under my belt, I can make a living from my passion by working as part of the Art Montgolfières team. It's a daily pleasure for me to be able to share my experience and the joy of flying with the passengers who climb aboard our gondolas. For me, taking part in making a child's or an adult's dream come true is an accomplishment.