After claiming the 17th Australian Hot Air Ballooning Championship at Canowindra in central western NSW last month, Mullumbimby’s Thomas Dattler and the Byron Bay Ballooning team have been invited to represent Australia at next year’s World Championship in the USA.
The win was even more remarkable given it was the first time Dattler had competed in a ballooning competition.
Originally from Germany and a resident of the Byron Shire for the last 16 years, he is also an accomplished glider pilot and sailor.
He said flying hot air balloons over the Byron Shire for the past six years had been the key to his success at Canowindra.
Starting with an excellent second place just a few points behind multi-Australian champion Paul Gibbs, he was never out of the top three at Canowindra.
Dattler said he had nailed two “nearly impeccable” flights in the challenging weather conditions during the last day of competition to take the title.
He said the competition format was based on accuracy, where pilots were given different tasks they had to achieve during each flight.
Tasks included multiple-marker drops over designated targets on the ground, the most points being awarded to the pilot whose marker fell nearest to the target, he said.
Using only the wind variations at different heights to gain some steerage, strategic and navigational skills were crucial as pilots had to carefully plan their flights according to the wind speed and direction.
Other Byron Bay Ballooning team members were Lui Monacelli and Emiliano Cataldi from Byron Bay.
For his win at Canowindra, Dattler was awarded a beautiful hand-crafted wooden trophy engraved with the names of past champions
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