The hot air ballooning activities in Turkey have greatly accelerated within the last 11 years thanks to the strategies and visions adopted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA/SHGM). In 2008 there were only 10 Hot Air Balloon operators with a total of 67 hot air balloons in their fleets. It is sufficient to look at 2018 data in order to better understand this acceleration which has increased significantly in recent years. According to DGCA data, while there were 239 hot air balloons in the fleets of 30 Hot Air Balloon Companies in 2018, there are now 309 hot air balloons in the fleets of 35 Hot Air Balloon Companies as per DGCA 2019 data. These figures reveal that the industry has grown almost 40% in just one year. In our interview with the Directorate General of the DGCA Bahri Kesici in June 2019, he stated that hot air ballooning activities are one of the most important priorities of the DGCA and that they continue to implement practices paving the way for the sector in this regard, and said the following: “We continue to implement practices paving the way for the industry. Ballooning activities have grown exceptionally. Cappadocia has become one of the biggest hot air balloon centers in the world. The number of passengers participating in Hot Air Balloon tours increased to over 500 thousand in 2018, reaching 537 thousand 500. An added value of over €100 million has been created for Turkey`s economy.” Hot Air Balloon flights in Turkey are realized 200 to 260 days per year, depending on weather conditions. At the biggest and most attractive flight point of the world like Cappadocia, almost 90 flights take place daily, while new ones continue to be added to this flight point area. According to DGCA data, 29,585 balloon flights were realized with 262 Hot Air Balloons of 27 balloon operators in 221 days in the Nevşehir region in 2019, and the number of passengers reached 586,367. In the Pamukkale region, a total of 5,095 balloon flights were realized in 332 days with 47 Hot Air Balloons of 8 balloon operators, and the number of passengers reached 75,415. The total number of flights in the Nevşehir and Pamukkale regions reached 34,680, and the number of passengers reached 661,782 in total. When we look at other balloon flight destinations around the world, Turkey has a significant number of flights and is above average. Depending on the weather and climate conditions, in 2019, 221 days of flight took place in the Nevşehir region and 332 days in the Pamukkale region, this figure was recorded as an average of 60 days in Belgium and 120 days in Spain. Even though the number of flights in the Cappadocia region in 2018 decreased to 221 days in 2019, a substantial increase by 124,282 has been recorded in the number of passengers. This is an indication of the rapid growth of the industry. Is there any local production of Hot Air Balloon in Turkey? It is one of the world`s most attractive destinations in terms of the number of flights, safety and cultural richness. Are the infrastructure facilities, local added value and supplier network sufficient in sustain this growing industry? Let`s take a brief look. On November 12, 2019, Turkey`s first unique PH-120 hot air balloon, the design and prototype production of which was realized by Pasha Balloons operating in the Cappadocia region, successfully passed the airworthiness and other tests of the GDCA and was found eligible for a “Type Certificate” and TCDS “Design Organization” and “Production Organization” approvals. While the PH-120 Model Hot Air Balloon Project, which was carried out under the supervision and control of the GDCA in 2018, was completed in about a year, a demonstration flight was also realized at the ceremony held in Cappadocia on October 10, 2019. The certification activities of the Hot Air Balloon were executed by GDCA certification experts according to the relevant requirements in the EASA`s certification specification (CS31.HB Amend.1). In line with the organization`s authorization processes, Pasha Balloons Inc. was found eligible for a Type Certificate, TCDS Design and Production Organization Approvals regarding the PH-120 Model Certification Project on November 12, 2019. At the ceremony held at the GDCA on January 23, 2020, the certificates were delivered to Pasha Balloons executives by the GDCA Directorate General, Bahri Kesici. With the PH-Series Hot Air Balloon Project, which is the second Type Certificate received in Turkey after the HürKuş advanced primary trainer aircraft, developed and manufactured by Turkish Aerospace, one more important threshold has been achieved for the acquisition of unique and national air vehicles to the aviation sector and for the development of the industry. The type certificate, certifying that the air vehicle is produced according to the approved design and approving the compliance of the design with the airworthiness requirements offer great opportunities.
What will it bring to Turkey and the balloon industry? Pasha Balloons Chairman Mehmet Halis Aydoğan stated that with this certificate rendering Turkey a producer country in the hot air ballooning industry, Pasha Balloons’ capabilities as a hot air balloon designer and manufacturer were approved and that such capability was certified after being verified by compatibility designations, and he also said that they have taken an important step towards being a global brand. “The Cappadocia region of our country, where intensive flights are realized, has become an exemplary point for the world ballooning industry and at the same time it has been the region where the most passenger flights are performed in the world. The arrangement made by the DGCA and the University of Cappadocia with the existing balloon operator for flights in the Cappadocia region is an arrangement that is taken as an example in all over the world in order to be implemented. At this point, it was a duty for us to manufacture with our own design and possibilities in our country. As Pasha Balloons, we are happy and proud to achieve this.” Pasho Balloon Chairman Halis Aydoğan: “We received an orders from Spain, Portugal and Belgium” Pasha Balloons Chairman Mehmet Halis Aydoğan stated that they recently have applied to the DGCA for the design and production of hot air balloons in seven different series, and that they aim to be the world leader in production like they have been in commercial hot air balloon flights. He added that they plan to achieve the same standards with all existing manufacturers with the inclusion of 24 different balloon types in the certificate within 2020. “Considering the number of balloons which is over 250 in our country, the Cappadocia region ranks first as the region where large-scale balloons, which we call passenger balloons, are used the most. Last year, the balloon operators in our country purchased Hot Air Balloons from manufacturing companies in the UK, Czechia and Spain at an amount of US$ 4,094,000. Considering these figures, Turkey, as a big market, will be our first target country. At the same time, our goal is to make Pasha Balloons a world brand by combining our 25-year ballooning experience and knowhow in consumer needs with production, after the failure of existing producers in the European and African markets to meet the demands increases the chance of a new global producer to enter the market. At this point, we have been working on the promotion of our company through participating in balloon festivals and competitions since 2017. As a result, companies from Spain, Portugal and Belgium visited us to see our facilities in January and February 2020 and submitted their order requests for 2020. As a result of our activities in service and maintenance in Africa and the Middle East, our company stands out as a preference. We will be an exclusively active company in the market by adding our 24 types (different dimensions) of balloons and special shaped balloons to our PH-Series Type Certificate by 2020 Q2. I would like to make an addition to special shaped balloons. These balloons, which are not well known in our country but are used for visual and promotional purposes, are very common in Europe and America. We can think of them as a flying refrigerator, box and dinosaur. These balloons, which are used especially in balloon festivals, are also used extensively for product promotion activities and we believe this sector will develop in our country in the upcoming period. In addition, we continue our efforts for the development of sportive aviation in our country. In this regard, we organized the first hot air balloon festival in our country in the Cappadocia region with the support and contributions of all stakeholders in 2019. In 2020, we will continue our efforts for the development of ballooning in our country.” Of course, the sector, growing day by day in terms of number of flights & balloons & passengers, still has some shortages in its production infrastructure. Pasha Balloons Chairman Mehmet Halis Aydoğan pointed out the difficulties they encountered during the procurement phase as follows: “Although our country is at a competitive level in terms of textiles, we have difficulties in the procurement stage of the technical fabric, load strips, etc., which are the most important inputs of the hot air balloon production process. In the use of nylon 6.6 yarn in such products, in the processes of weaving and coating within special standards, further progress should be achieved in the final product quality by conducting R&D studies. Similarly, it is very important to carry out R&D studies in accordance with the certification projects of our machining industry in the supply of machined metal parts (seamless steel pipes). At this point, our negotiations with sector representatives and several universities continue.” Proceeding with its own resources in the design and production processes, Pasha Balloons continues to work with determination to be a pioneer for the development of the industry, despite the difficulties encountered in the procurement processes. The company`s goal, as Turkey’s first balloon manufacturer in the international arena, is to be a strong global manufacturer. The contribution of hot air balloon flights is indisputable in making the country`s cultural and historical richness permanent in minds through a journey full of adrenaline. The sector is makeing a good start in 2020 with new targets with the addition of hidden and unexplored destinations throughout the country