A Day In The Life #2: Hot Air Balloon Pilot

As a follow-up to our digital series, ‘A Day In The Life’ takes flight up on a hot air balloon with Izzati Khairudin, CEO of AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd as well as one of Malaysia’s first female Hot Air Balloon Pilot along with her sister, Atiqah Khairudin.

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AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd is the company behind the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta that has been on-going in Putrajaya for the past 8 years. In 2013, Izzati and three of her close balloonist friends kick-started the first commercial hot air balloon company in Malaysia, My Balloon Adventure which offers everyone a chance to fly in a hot air balloon. They have been operating daily flights in Putrajaya since November 2015.

What is your occupation?

I’m a Hot Air Balloon Pilot of Myballoon Adventure and CEO of AKA Balloon Sdn. Bhd.

What does your job entail?

Waking up very early in the morning (5am) to prepare for a hot air balloon flight in Putrajaya. Heavy lifting, carrying balloon equipments and multitasking between being a tourist guide and a balloon pilot during a balloon flight.

What brought you to do what you’re doing now?

AKA Balloon’s journey began by my late father in 1995. My siblings and I grew up with hot air balloons, but never have I thought that I would be helming the business later on. I joined the company since the inception of Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon fiesta back in 2009, and was working directly under my father, assisting him with the event planning. In 2012 he passed away and I filled in his shoe to continue and grow the business.

Do you enjoy what you do?

I do, very much! Perks of the job includes being able to travel the world through ballooning. I get international invitations to fly during their events. Even if it’s not for a balloon event, I love to meet balloonists in their hometown and fly with them, usually with their balloons, when I’m travelling for leisure.

Just recently I attended the Taj Balloon Festival in Agra, India. It has always been a dream of mine to see Taj Mahal up close, but to be able to fly a balloon next it, that feat alone deserve a bold check mark off my bucket list!

What are some of the challenges you face?

As a balloonist, unpredictable weather is always a challenge especially since we are unable to control the direction of the flight path. So somedays you get a nice route with plenty of places to land, somedays landing at a practical area seems impossible. Running a business in a very niche industry albeit being in Malaysia for more than 20 years, is not easy. Most of the time potential clients are very sceptical of what the balloon can do to attract people considering it has a lot of factors beyond their control (like weather conditions).

Describe a typical day at work.

On the days that I have a scheduled balloon flight, I set my alarm at 4.50 AM, get ready and leave to my warehouse in Sungai Besi. By 7.30 AM we take off and the flight will usually last around 45 minutes to an hour. This is followed by breakfast at a nearby hotel and a certificate giving ceremony before we bid goodbye to our passengers of the day.

During the normal period (after March onwards, post-annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta) life gets a little less hectic and I go home at 6.00PM. I get so busy sometimes, so the days that I don’t have any plans in the evening, I try to cook for my husband. He doesn’t eat anything leafy or green, so I take this opportunity to get creative in order to get him to eat anything that falls under the fruit and vegetable category! After dinner we’ll be watching Netflix. As age is catching up by 11.00PM I would call it a night.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope in five years both my companies will have help expand the hot air balloon industry in Malaysia; not only for tourism but also as an adventure sport especially in Sabah and Sarawak. I see myself flying passengers in places like Perlis and Kota Kinabalu to show them what Malaysia’s natural beauty is all about from a bird’s eye view and hopefully by then I will earn my place in the world’s hot air balloon championship

 

6am at the warehouse, loading balloon equipment for today's flight
6:00AM –  At the warehouse, loading balloon equipments for today’s flight (Friday, 23rd December 2016).

 

7am
7:00AM – Arrived at the launch site and doing the burner check before we set up the balloon.

 

7-20am
7:20AM – Checking the lines during cold inflation before putting up the balloon.

 

7.25aM: Inflating the balloon
7:25AM – Inflating the balloon.

 

7.45: inflight photo with my students from Queenstown Resort college. I teach them introduction to introduction to Recreation, Leisure, sports and tourism
7:45AM – Inflight photo with my students from Queenstown Resort college. I teach them introduction to Recreation, Leisure, Sports and Tourism.

 

8.45AM: Very slow wind today, so landing spot was hard to find. Thankfully manage to squeeze in and land on the road so it was easy for the retrieval to get us. Behind me my trusted crew ajiem and amira together with the students helping to pack the balloons
8:45AM – Very slow wind today, so our landing spot was hard to find. Thankfully we managed to squeeze in and land on the road so it was easy for the retrieval to get us. Behind me is my trusted crew Ajiem and Amira together with the students helping to pack the balloons

 

8:55AM - Celebratory toast for them! Its a balloon tradition to have a toast with the passengers after the flight.
8:55AM – Celebratory toast for them! It’s a balloon tradition to have a toast with the passengers post-flight.

 

11:00 AM, preparing for another flight on Christmas day. Loading the balloons from warehouse to the lorry. The job is not as glamorous as one would think.
11:00AM – Preparing for another flight on Christmas day. Loading the balloons from warehouse to the lorry. The job is not as glamorous as one would think.

 

1.30PM : Lunch in the office. Once a month the office MUST have our dose of Laksa Sarawak. And today is that day of the month! Thank u GoGet !
1:30PM – Lunch in the office. Once a month the office MUST have our dose of Laksa Sarawak and today is that day of the month. All thanks to GoGet!

 

2-30pm
2:30PM – Finalizing artwork with our designer before it is send out for production. I’m very particular when it comes to all of the collaterals, it’s also a good idea to have another pair of eyes to check the work so nothing is to be missed out.

 

4.30 PM : wrap up meeting about Myballoonfiesta, our upcoming event in March 2017.
4:30PM – Wrap up meeting about My Balloon Fiesta, our upcoming event in March 2017.

 

6.30PM : after braving the half an hour traffic to meet my awesome tailor, responsible for all my pretty dresses. Came to pick up bridesmaid dress for tomorrow and also customising another 2 dress for my upcoming weddings i have to attend. Been with her for years, the only person in the world who knows my measurement (even i dont know mine) 😂
6:30PM – After braving the half an hour traffic to meet my awesome tailor, responsible for all my pretty dresses. Came to pick up bridesmaid dress for a wedding I have to attend tomorrow. Been with her for years, the only person in the world who knows my measurement (even I don’t know mine) 😂

 

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8:00PM – Everyone needs an outlet to release their stress. Twice a week I throw punches at my trainer. It feels really good after. A perfect way to end my work week and gear up for the weekend!

 

Usually my work requires a lot of discussion about upcoming events with my team. I give a lot of flexibility to them to come up with their own ideas and style but at the end of the day I will give the final say. I am extremely detail oriented! – Izzati

 

Stay tuned for more editions of #ADayInTheLife. You can check out the first of the series featuring Shoppr App’s Co-Founder here. #TeamCLEO encourages you to keep exploring for inspiration to consider as a drive to keep pushing yourself when it comes to reaching your dream goals.

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