Monday, September 5th 2016.

by Izzati Khairudin


We left for the school as scheduled. It was raining cats and dogs the night before, so the sky was clear but very windy.  Eqa was in charge of putting up the balloon and I had to conduct the balloon workshop for the Form One & Form Four students. It was actually my first time doing the workshop so I was quite nervous especially when our flash cards were designed for primary students. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I elaborated more on each topic and even added simple math equations when it came to the gas usage and flight time. 

 Balloon Workshop @ Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sains Terengganu

Balloon Workshop @ Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sains Terengganu

During the course of the workshop, I saw my team having a slightly difficult time cold inflating the balloon due to strong winds. When the wind finally died down, I gave Eqa a signal to ask if she is ready. She nodded and I started to give a commentary of what’s going on at that moment. Just before the inflation, the envelope kept rolling to one side and then the wind started to pick up again. We call it the 'rock & roll' inflation. 

After 10 minutes of trying to keep the balloon stable, Eqa called it off. I continued on with the workshop explaining how the balloon is at the mercy of the weather and gave out quizzes to the students to test their understanding. Right after that Eqa was ready to attempt an inflation again. Alhamdulillah, the balloon stood up. The wind was still going around the field, so we quickly got all the teachers, and students to do a group photo op while Eqa tried to stabilise the balloon. 

In the midst of the whole commotion suddenly we heard a tearing sound! I looked up and saw the top part of the banner coming off from the velcro. Like a slow motion nightmare we saw the entire top part fell off. So the banner was just hanging there at the bottom part. 

It didn’t end there.

We heard the second tearing sound, so Amira and I quickly grabbed the dangling banner end when the bottom velcro came undone. It was rather funny though. I think everyone's jaw dropped but I couldn't stop giggling looking at the entire mess. This comes to show how windy it was. Note to self, sew the banner next time!

So that was the indicator for Eqa to finally put the balloon to rest. We had to apologise to everyone for not being able to tether the balloon. We did try our best but when the wind says no, we should never try to beat nature. We gave away a token of appreciation to the school and even got a few students to try their hands at packing the balloon up. Our partner Nestle came just in time with the Milo Truck parked at the assembly place giving away free Milo to the entire school. Of course my team members were the first one to hog the truck!

Cikgu Zainuddin invited us to the school canteen for a traditional Terengganu breakfast which was really thoughtful. Like starving cavemen, we ate everything on the table. My personal favourite agenda of each trip is trying out food from different states. We bid our goodbyes to the students and teachers who welcomed us with such warm hospitality. In fact, there were even some students who came up to me and ask how they could participate as a crew next time we fly. Nothing fills my heart more than seeing students developing a serious interest in hot air ballooning. Despite not being able to fly (tether) the balloon, we managed to put up a show and carve a smile on their faces. 

After lunch Eqa and I went to pay a visit to the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) in KT and met up with Mr. Johari. Surprisingly he has flown with Sobri before during the Royal Kedah International HAB Festival back in 2010.

When we presented our flight plan, he was concerned that we were flying towards the approach path of planes arriving in KT. We manage to negotiate a 3000 feet clearance until 7.30am and to keep a 500 feet ceiling if the wind takes us to the direction of the airport. 

He even gave us a tour of the tower! Okay. I asked for the tour, but he was more than happy to accomodate us. The runway is just next to sea and we could see both Pulau Kapas and Pulau Redang from there! I think I should start making a list of all the ATC I've visited.