These two amazing sisters Nur Izzati and Nur Atiqah Khairudin became the first two female hot air balloon pilots in Malaysia when they completed our license in Spain, September 2015. Besides being the first ladies to command the skies in hot air balloons, they also run AKA Balloon, the biggest and oldest hot air balloon company in the country that is responsible for bringing you the Putrajaya and Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta! In association with Ford Motor Company and local distributor, Sime Darby Auto Connexion (SDAC), AKA Balloon proudly presents Life On Air.
Life On Air discovers Peninsular Malaysia from a bird’s eye view, right from the basket of Malaysia’s first female balloon pilots and sisters, Izzati and Atiqah Khairudin. They will travel to nine states to host balloon workshops in schools and interview state guests about their life, on air. In this post, we will share about their experience in the Terengganu leg of the expedition.
Terengganu Leg Experience
The winds and sunny skies in the East Coast of Kuala Terengganu greeted the hot air balloon team with much excitement. Or so it seemed. Pilots Izzati and Atiqah Khairudin and their crews made their way to Sekolah Menengah Sains Kuala Terengganu for a balloon workshop. A group of 60 students gathered at the school field to set their sights on 9M-AKA. While the weather was sunny and clear, it was definitely too windy for the balloon to be up too long.
“It’s not a letdown, to be honest. In fact, it is a good way to demonstrate the nature of the balloon so that they can understand that in some circumstances, too much wind is not ideal for this aircraft, especially when it is tethered to the ground,” explains Izzati.
Life On Air aims to educate and expose the people to hot air balloons in their natural environment. While many have seen these gentle giants being displayed at the Putrajaya and Penang Fiestas, not many have had the opportunity to see how they really fly in the ‘real world’.
Atiqah, who takes turns to pilot the balloon with her sister had this to say, “When we fly, we are very dependent on a lot of things. We need help from our ground crews, input from the Department of Civil Aviation, the locals, especially when we fly somewhere unfamiliar. Balloons are also submissive towards the weather, so safety is always number one. Eventually, you will realise that you don’t just make it on your own. It’s about teamwork and cooperation.”
Heavy rain in the early hours of Tuesday did not dampen the spirit of the team as they made their way to a field in Bukit Payong for their free-flying attempt. Setting up their balloon while the rain drizzles on, it eventually came to a halt just before the balloon was fully inflated.
‘Local Hero’ from Marang, Abdul Aziz Yusof who works with the Fishery Department, was selected to fly together with the sisters. An enthusiastic man who spent his whole life working with the sea, now tries his best to attract tourists and surfers to head over to Terengganu during the monsoon season with his passion for photography. He is well known in the local surfer community and a firm believer that conservation of nature happens when people start to appreciate it.
“The best waves comes when the coral reefs break the waves,” he explained. “When people who start surfing realise this, they take the extra mile to make sure not to harm those reefs so that they can enjoy good waves when they surf. ” It is not easy to get people to share the same values when they do not see what is “in it” for them.
For now, it is safe to say that you can find many sports to enjoy in any kind of weather. Come rain or shine!
This expedition is made possible in association with AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, Ford Motor Company and local distributor, Sime Darby Auto Connexion (SDAC) as Official Vehicle, iM4U.fm as Official Radio and Ultron as Official Apparel. To find out more information on the expedition, visit www.lifeonair.asia and #LifeOnAirMY on Facebook and Twitter. Live feed is available on Youtube and Snapchat, @LifeOnAir. Other than hot air balloon, motorcycle rides are another great option to explore the different states of Malaysia.