It all started on July 26th, 1992. That morning we came home from a holiday in Spain and while mom and dad Geeraerts where unpacking the suitcases I had a look at the horse-jumping that was held in our town Olen. For the children there was a contest in which text balloons from a comic had to be filled out. And I was one of the lucky winners. At home, they did not believe it at first but soon they realised this was not a joke. Later that day we gathered on the launch field where the Dela-balloon with pilot Luc Smeets was inflated for a balloon flight over the region. Being just 10 years old I was rather afraid of unknown things, so my parents thought they would have to take me back out of the basket just before launch, but to their surprise I remained very quiet ... It was a very nice flight and after landing I immediately announced: "I want more of this!".
And from that day on I was infected with the balloon virus. I started to collect everything about ballooning: pins, stickers, certificates, photos, newspaper articles, ... and every time a balloon flew over I jumped on my bike to follow him until landing, so I could help with packing. At home my parents often where anxiously waiting until I came home late again and in the dark. On windy it was too hard to follow by bike, so my parents were eventually "required" to take the car to chase for balloons: in this way my whole family came in contact with the balloon world.
My father Guy became interested in the theory of ballooning and started reading all about it. Finally he went to the theoretical exam to test his knowledge, at that time even without the intention to become a pilot himself. But one thing led to another and soon we bought a second hand balloon, the OO-BVW. For his practical training Guy went to Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, where he learned ballooning with Patrick Libert as instructor. In 1996, on October 7th, Guy made his first solo flight.
In 1997 my parents decided to start a balloon company. Several ideas for a company name came up and eventually "Rabbits Ballooning" was born. How we got to this name? Ask me if you meet me somewhere.
After a while our balloon was due for renewal. It was completely rebuilt in yellow and black. On the 15th of July 1999 our new balloon made its maiden voyage and was baptized "Wasp" because of its colours. For several years my father was a freelance pilot for a Dutch balloon company where he flew for Proximus, Virgin, Fujifilm, ... but after some time we had more people who wanted to fly with us in Belgium so we decided to stop flying freelance. As the demand for passenger flights was growing we decided to buy a second balloon for 6 passengers. The "Big Wasp" was born.
Meanwhile I studied for the theoretical exam for my pilot license and began my practical training with Koen Audenaert as instructor. On the 22th of July 2002, ten years after my first balloon flight as a passenger, I succeeded my practical exam flight with examiner François Schaut. Now our two wasps could get in the air simultaneously!
Apart from the classic balloons you see balloons with special shapes, mostly at festivals. I was really amazed of these giant creations and started with a database, which grew into this website where all those balloons are listed by country.
It was always a dream to have my own special shape balloon and in 2005 this became reality. On the 23th of July, our "Funny Bunny" was officially presented during the balloon festival in our hometown Olen. During the following years our Bunny made several trips across Belgium and abroad, and has been a welcome guest at several balloonfestivals.
We are now almost 21 years after my first balloon flight as a passenger in the Dela-balloon. The Big Wasp and Wasp are both rebuilt. Beside my father and myself also son-in-law Kevin has his pilot license. What comes next? Nobody knows but I certainly want to visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta someday. Maybe in 2014?