Tourist balloon makes expert landing near Queenstown airport

by Peter Newport - Mar 20, 2024

Autumn wind conditions resulted in a Queenstown hot air balloon making a landing unusually close to the airport this morning.

The balloon, operated by Sunrise Balloons, normally operates around the Lake Hayes and Arrowtown areas but today's autumnal wind conditions resulted in a landing less than a kilometre from Queenstown's main airport runway.

The landing approach was over the roof of Henry's wines and spirits in Frankton.

All images and video: Stevee Devonda - Owner of Iron and Ivy hair salon, Frankton

The balloon was carrying a full load of passengers but made a perfect landing at the edge of State Highway 6 between the Queenstown Central shopping centre and Henry's liquor store on Hawthorne Drive.

Sunrise Balloon's chief pilot, Carrick McLellan, told Crux this morning that the balloon was able to operate within Queenstown airport's controlled airspace as it carried both civil aviation radio equipment and a transponder that allows the balloon to be seen on air traffic control radar in the same way as other, faster aircraft.


All images and video: Stevee Devonda - Owner of Iron and Ivy hair salon, Frankton

"We can get different sorts of winds at this time of year" Mr McLellan explained. "We were in contact with the airport this morning and everything went smoothly."

The Queenstown Airport Corporation released a brief statement to Crux confirming that the balloon landing did not cause any disruption to local jet, Milford Sound fixed wing or helicopter operations.

"Balloon operations are always monitored by Airways, which is responsible for managing air traffic in the Whakatipu Basin and ensuring the safety of all aircraft. This morning’s balloon landing at Frankton did not affect operations at Queenstown Airport.”

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