The People Behind The Magic

Dinner & Drinks for The Crew That Can Do 
Rear L-R: Declan Foley, Ray Bergin, Liam Dunne, Barry Colgan. 
Centre: Barry Cronin, Andrew Woods, Alison Murphy, Aidan Murphy, Brendan O'Rourke. 
Front: Margaret Bergin, Lorcan Bergin, Aoife Murphy, Brian Meegan. 
Photograph © Barry Cronin December 2016

These are my closest friends, my trusted lieutenants, my inner circle. 
Three of us are life long friends since we were 4 years of age.  
Last night was all about them. 

When you see my Hot Air Balloon float over your house, it's natural for you to subconsciously link 
(only) me to the balloon, "Oh, there's Aidan / Capt. Murf in his balloon". 
What you don't see from the ground is the hidden hands and minds that are instrumental in putting the balloon where it is when you see it, safely in the air !!  

When I fly my friends that are wheelchair bound, it's these people that are critical to that flight happening.
They are fully conversed on the loading and strapping in of the wheelchair. 
They are totally competent in rigging the balloon for launch and derigging it on landing. 
They are switched on to what's happening on the ground while the balloon is airborne and fully 
competent in using our licensed airband radio transceivers to communicate with the balloon in flight. 
When we have a nervous person in the basket, it's their influence that calms things down. 
On landing and I need gate access to retrieve the balloon? these are the people that diplomatically approach the farmer/landowner and explain what's happening and obtain permission to drive onto the property to retrieve me and perhaps a wheelchair too. 

So who are the crew?

Here's the quirky thing, if we (including myself) were to attend an interview for the roles we are responsible for while out ballooning, we probably wouldn't get the job. 
For example, the pilot has sight in only one eye, another crew member (master at retrieve) is a rally driver, another an IT network engineer, another a police man, one more is a comercially licensed helicopter pilot flying the Bell 407 daily over New York City, I could go on. 
But our hot air dream machine? it works and works seamlessly and beautifully. 
Be it a friend, neighbour or wheelchair user that we fly for fun, this thing just syncs and clicks very well. 

Why do they do it?

That's a question you really need to ask them. Yes, I rotate the basket spaces so they all get flights over the ballooning season. But that alone would not incentivise one to give up ones precious evening to chase a balloon through the countryside where it's possible the balloon gets landlocked with no vehicle access which means a 'carry out' must be done. If you were to ask them why, I can certainly give you an idea where the answers might converge. They love to see smiles on people's faces who we fly and know they put them there. They are all very strong team players, real geniurne team stuff going on here folks. But the conduit that strings it all that together? They like to have FUN with a capital F and that's vital, I insist on it !

So you can imagine, when I got that horrible news of this inoperable cancer tumour in my stomach and told my crew, how they must have felt. I found it hard to spill the words out as I was telling the closest people I have outside of family. 
On the other side of the coin, these are people that I can rely on and trust 200%. They go that extra mile and come back for more, then do it all over again. So although we're not flying right now, both you reading this blog and I can see how lucky I am to have these people on my side right now. 

So last night  we had our annual festive Dinner & Drinks. A catch up of the fun and frolics we had over the past year. The people we flew, the generous and sporting landowners we met along the way,  the reactions we got, the stories we can't print here (lol). All super to recant over a few cold beers. 

We also got a chance to wear our new rugby shirts I had custom made for us. The shirts tell a message too. 
One of our crew, Barry Cronin ( is also pretty keen with a camera (OK, so he's
a three times winner at the PPAI Photojournalism awards), so Barry very kindly took a class festive shot of us all.


Trevor & Anna Kellett raising a glass for the evening that's in it. 

Part of my honorary crew are Trevor and Anna. They couldn't be with us last night but were there in spirit as 
can be seen here. Trevor is a fixed wing pilot and accomplished IAA flight examiner. The Kellett's are the principles behind the busy Navan Air Field (EIHH). Since I got ill (and I'll be in trouble here), this beautiful couple call to visit me every Monday night, without fail, a round trip of 50km+. The same went when I was in hospital in Dublin. 

In closing, I present to you, my crew. 

As always, thanks for reading my blog. 



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