Beginnings

The Flying High For Kids World Balloon Project is well on the way to starting. It is rewarding to see three years of planning coming together.  

 A short re-cap of what has happened so far:

-I approached UNICEF about three years ago with the idea for them to support and be part of the project. They agreed to support it. We agreed it would be up to me to find the funding and arrange the logistics.

-I followed overland travellers who are travelling through countries which I will also be travelling through. I researched a practical route which fits in with UNICEF projects, also visa and importation requirements, border crossings, availability of fuel, etc

-I researched trucks and equipment which I will need to take so I can be completely self sufficient.

-About 6 months ago I made the project public and I stepped up planning. I am working between two and eight hours a day on it.

-Over the past four months I have been approaching sponsors. Kubicek Balloons and Flytec have all ready agreed to be part of the project. I am currently in discussions with other interested sponsors, and approaching new ones.

-The balloon has started to be built last month.

-I bought a second-hand camper truck last month from an overland traveller I have been in touch with from the start. Modifications have been started on it to accommodate the balloon.

-Last week I visited the place in Holland where the modifications to the truck are being made. We went over the modifications and schedule. The truck will be shipped to Australia, (where it was originally registered) in early November.

-Various meetings have taken place with UNICEF in New Zealand and China over the past three years. We discussed how we will manage the involvement of UNICEF over the project and a general outline of objectives and where the project will go.

It is important to meet deadlines. Things like arranging a Carnet de Passage for the truck and balloon, (a carnet de passage is similar to a passport. It makes it easier for importing and exporting into and out of countries), insurance, visas, the buying of the truck and balloon, modifications to the truck, and shipping, to name just a few. If I miss one of these, it is possible the project will be delayed by a number of months. The project has to be timed just right to meet weather conditions. I don’t want to be in Nigeria in the middle of the wet season, or Siberia in the middle of winter.

At the same time, the project has to be flexible. Unforeseen delays such as a vehicle breakdown, or political unrest in a certain country can also change the course of the project. It is important to have back-up plans to cater for every situation. Over the past three years I have been in touch with overland travellers who have travelled through countries which I also plan to visit. I have been making sure it is possible to travel to these places and gathering information about them. The information which I have received from the numerous overland travellers has been invaluable to the planning of the Flying High For Kids Project.

The balloon won’t be able to fly in every country we travel to due to airspace/military restrictions. I still plan to tether the balloon in some of these countries. In other countries we will only be allowed to get transit visas, therefore won’t have the time to do a flight. I am hopeful to be able to fly or tether the balloon in 100 countries.

The project relies on the support of many people. I have received a huge amount of support. Without this, the project wouldn’t be able to take place.  I am very grateful to all the people who have shown their support.

The project is on track to start in New Zealand in December this year, one month earlier than originally planned. Updates will be made on here and our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/flyinghighforkidsproject

About the author: Andrew Parker

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