Hot air balloons. We meet the Seghers: a passion driven by the wind

segehrs mongolfiere balloons

Curiosity, behind the scenes, everything you ever wanted to ask about hot air balloons and you never dared: we interview Jos and Karin Seghers, veterans of the Italian International Baloon Grand Prix that is taking place in the skies of Todi.

The spectacle of colored skies from hot air balloons returns to Todi with the Italian International Baloon Grand Prix 2022, now in its 34th edition which sees the participation of about 90 crews for an emotion that is renewed every day from July 29th to August 7th.

But let’s see a little more closely what are the peculiarities of this aircraft that has always captured the imagination of adults and children who, regardless of age, are enchanted in observing the colorful balloons hovering in flight abandoned in the embrace of the wind.

We interviewed Jos and Karin Seghers, a Belgian crew, now an old acquaintance of the Grand Prix, to understand a little more about what is behind this show that makes us get up early and keeps us with our noses upwards.

First of all, Mr. Seghers, by visiting your site I see that you are involved in ballooning events in many parts of Europe and the world: is yours a profession or a hobby?

It is a hobby, in fact, as well as in Italy, we participate with our balloons in a series of events held in many European countries as well as at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. In Belgium, flying in a balloon cannot be more than a hobby because, due to the foggy and rainy weather, the ideal climatic conditions for flying occur only three months a year.

How did the passion for hot air ballooning begin?

It all started about thirty years ago, before I was driving small ultralight aircraft – says Jos – and my wife, one year for my birthday, gave me a balloon flight: from there an immense passion was born; flying by plane is much less exciting and, over time, it becomes a routine thing like driving a car, while with a hot air balloon, each trip is an experience in itself.

How does a flight take place? And how many people must a crew be at least?

Segher's balloon landing in Todi countryside
Segher’s balloon landing in Todi countryside

The crew must be at least 4 people, including those who fly in a balloon and those who stay on the ground. First of all, to inflate the hot air balloon, you need people who allow the air to enter without risking burning the sheet that makes up the balloon, then, once in flight, the wind decides the direction and speed: the pilot’s experience (who can only decide whether to go up or down) will indicate what is the right altitude to achieve his goal, whether he is competitive or not. The most complex thing is the landing, because there are many obstacles that can hinder it: from high voltage cables to trees, from houses to animals, to cultivated fields that must be avoided in order not to damage the crops. The ground crew, in constant radio contact, will provide for the recovery of passengers and the aircraft. Once we landed, we have a very special tradition born in 1985, when a Belgian nobleman wanted to give his beloved a balloon flight with us; once landed, he made her find champagne and a breakfast, surprising her with the conferment of the title of baroness: from that moment on, as a festive conclusion to an unforgettable experience, all our flights end with a toast with champagne, breakfast, the delivery of a certificate and the award of the title of “baron”!

To conclude, I’m biased, but which is the sky you prefer to fly?

Without a doubt that of Todi! But we don’t say it for flattery, this is the most relaxing place to enjoy a balloon flight: the weather is stable, there are no extreme weather events, the wheat fields at this time of the year have been harvested so we don’t have big problems for landings. For us it is a pleasure to come back every year: returning to Todi is a bit like coming home.

Benedetta Tintillini

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