Most of Chose who go ballooning in Ukraine are men. In fact, there is only one woman so far who has been able to receive an official licence for "piloting balloons" — she is Tetyana Beidyk from Kyiv. But she had been training to get it for ten years.
Her licence says she has the right "to pilot thermal balloons." Her husband, Yury Beidyk, is also a certified "pilot of balloons" and she performed some stunts in ballooning together with her husband. One of his ballooning stunts got registered in the Book of Records of Ukraine.
There are only 15 pilots of thermal balloons in Ukraine, and only one of them is a woman. According to Mrs. Beidyk, there are many more balloons than people who have been certified to pilot them.
"The first ever balloon flights in Ukraine began to be performed in the town of Feodosiya in the Crimea. Later, such flights began to be performed in Kyiv as well. It was so exciting to watch them soar. I joined my husband, whenever I could, when he went for training and competitions. I hang around the fields from which the balloons went up, I helped with whatever I could, always hoping that one day I myself would be able to ride in the gondola of a balloon. One day my husband took me for a ride in the capacity of a navigator — my task was to help to figure out where we were. That first time proved to be so thrilling, though I admit I was scared a little — it was a very windy day. But it boosted my desire to become a balloon pilot in my own right," said Mrs. Beidyk. Flights are performed in Hydropark, a section of town within the city limits, from a filed in Kyiv's vicinity. Preparations begin very early in the morning. There are a lot of things that have to be done before the balloon will go aloft. One of these things is fixing the basket to the balloon. It takes a lot of physical strength and effort to do it. Mrs. Beidyk says that her crew made up of men takes care of that. "But you do have to be physically strong to be able to pilot balloons. Medical checkups are as thorough as those for airline pilots. I do not think though that I can be described as a very athletic person. In my younger days I used to do some mountain climbing, and frankly, I can tell you I had a great fear of heights. Several times I got stuck on steep slopes and had to shout for help. I do not like flying in planes either, but for some strange reason when I go aloft in a balloon up to the altitude of, say, two kilometers, I feel perfectly all right!// says Mrs. Beidyk.
She had attended a school of ballooning in Feodosiya before she earned her licence of a balloon pilot. She can even take passengers for a ride.
"It's not that difficult to learn to pilot a balloon — it’s sort of like learning to drive a car. To a certain extent it's even simpler. You make the air in the balloon warmer and it goes up. You don't have to turn on signals that would indicate your intentions to go up, left, right or down. There is no steering wheel either, but you have to be very careful when you fly at low altitudes — it would be very dangerous to bump into trees or electric wires, or anything like this. I'd say that balloons are the safest means of transportation — no matter what happens, the balloon above your head will act as a giant parachute and bring you down safely.
"Some accidents do happen though, but very few. In the past thirty years, gas tanks blew up or the balloons got entangled in electric wires about a dozen times. Driving cars is an enormously much more dangerous exercise. When I take passengers for a ride, I, of course, do not tell them stories about accidents. Well, sometimes, the gondola can get overturned during the landing, but as a rule it does not involve any serious injuries... Once, I had a whole family for passengers — a man, his wife and their five-year old daughter. It was in the town of Kamenets. It was their first balloon flight. I explained to them how they should behave in the basket, what they could do and what they should not, and what they must not. When we were already aloft, the wind, contrary to the weather forecast, began to grow stronger and stronger. I thought it would be a good idea to go down and told my passengers that at the moment of landing the basket could be dragged along on the ground for some time. But the girl seemed to be eager for an emergency of that kind and she began whooping, 'Come on, let's go down, let's fall!'".
Mrs. Beidyk's husband became a balloon pilot much earlier than his wife. He has spent more than 530 hours aloft in balloons. He is a member of the national ballooning team of Ukraine, of the British Royal Club of Aeronautics; he has taken part in many competitions in Ukraine and abroad. The stunt he performed together with two other balloonists — three balloons linked together with ropes passed under a bridge — was entered into the Book of Records of Ukraine.
Their son Oleksandr does not share his parents' excitement about ballooning. "Young people today seem to be too pragmatic; they don't seem to care for romantic adventures too much. I did take my son for many balloon rides even when he was just a kid, so he knows what it is all about. Now when he is an undergraduate student, he treats ballooning from a strictly practical point of view. Once he asked me, 'Mom, can one make money by ballooning?' and I had to tell him frankly, 'No you cannot.' You can't call ballooning a business, it's just a romantic fun... Besides, we do not see each other too often. But when there's a chance, we take part in all sorts of competitions, we take passengers for rides. We love ballooning!" said Mrs. Beidyk in conclusion of our talk.
By Maryna TESLENKO