World record hot air balloon holder seeks new skies in Putrajaya

Hirosuke Takezawa making sure the inside of the balloon is good to go as it inflates for takeoff. — Picture courtesy of AKA Balloon
Hirosuke Takezawa making sure the inside of the balloon is good to go as it inflates for takeoff. — Picture courtesy of AKA Balloon

PUTRAJAYA, March 28 — Hirosuke Takezawa has seen much of the world from a bird’s-eye view.

The veteran pilot has flown hot air balloons in several countries and has even crossed the snowy caps of the Himalayas during his travels in the skies.

His latest adventure has brought him to Malaysia where Takezawa is taking part in the 10th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2019.

With more than 30 years of flying experience, he also holds the world record for the longest uninterrupted hot air balloon flight with fellow Japanese pilot Michio Kanda.

It all started when Takezawa took part in a ballooning club at university where he cultivated a love for hot air balloons.

“In that club, we made the balloons ourselves. Every day, we were sewing balloons all the time,” Takezawa told Malay Mail.

“Eventually, we learned how to fly them ourselves. That’s how I got my start.”

Takezawa inflating the balloon with the help of his crew. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Takezawa inflating the balloon with the help of his crew. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

On the record-breaking journey he made with Kanda in February 1997, Takezawa said it was a memorable experience albeit extremely challenging.      

The duo took off in Alberta, Canada and landed in Montana, United States after 50 hours and 38 minutes in the sky, a record certified by the World Air Sports Federation.

Takezawa shared some of the hurdles one has to face after being up in the air for that long, including the issue of eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom.

“You can’t really sleep soundly but it’s only for two days, so it’s not that bad.

“For going to the bathroom, we decided to use a bucket. In fact, it was easier and more durable.

“Eating was also a simple task, we brought things like biscuits and bananas with us,” he said.

The pilot is looking forward to flights in Putrajaya and the new challenges it will bring. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
The pilot is looking forward to flights in Putrajaya and the new challenges it will bring. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Weather is a critical factor when it comes to balloon flying and Takezawa recounted a time where the temperature dipped to minus 20 degrees Celsius while on a flight.

His stash of onigiri or Japanese rice balls were rendered almost inedible as they were hard as ice cubes.

However, the pilot has never been one to shy away from challenges and he is now prepared to face the tropical climate of Malaysia in his upcoming flights.

The warm weather here means that pilots have to take extra precautions as the altitude of the aircraft depends on the temperature difference between the air inside the balloon and outside of it.

Takezawa is particularly ecstatic to be working in Putrajaya as it differs from many of the countryside locations he’s flown in before, offering him a chance to share his passion with a distinctly urban audience.

As he flew across the city, Takezawa waved and shouted “selamat pagi” at curious onlookers who came out of their homes to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloons decorating Putrajaya’s sky.

Hot air balloons flying over Putrajaya with the Putra Mosque in the background. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Hot air balloons flying over Putrajaya with the Putra Mosque in the background. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

“If I had a normal life, I wouldn’t have come here and met all these people. That is very interesting to me.

“Being able to talk with the local people about hot air balloons has made me very happy.”

The 10th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2019 will be taking place from March 28 to March 31 at Precinct 2, Putrajaya.

Admission to the event is free and interested visitors can head on over to the event’s website (https://www.myballoonfiesta.com) for more information.

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