The work of Luis Leonardo depends a lot on the weather. If it is good wind, if there is no rain … Also it has under its responsibility the life of many tourists. Starting work from 4:30 in the morning as a hot air balloon pilot considers it a hobby, more than an occupation. When he returns the passengers to the hotels, around 9 in the morning, he tells me that he “finishes the fun” and he works in the office.
I met Luis when I traveled in 2012 to Punta Cana to do a report about this service offered with his family in the company Dominican Balloons. On the day of the walk I got up early. Before 6 in the morning we were taking photos and video of the arrangements to inflate the gigantic and colorful transport.
In this 2015, he was at a balloon festival in Taiwan, flying an impressive replica of a cathedral, which he also used to promote the Dominican Republic. The inflatable “church” attracted the attention of couples who -wondered in their wedding dresses- took advantage of it for photo shoots.
Luis, 45, is not an airplane pilot. His license to fly is special for balloons, and he already has 15 years of experience. He confesses that he has not yet been through an episode he feared for his life. But it has particular memories of some passengers. It describes the case of a young woman who was so nervous about the walk that she could not contain the urge to urinate. “We had to descend and land on some farms in the area to allow her to leave the gondola,” she says, “and while we all turned around, she could relieve her plight. Then he climbed the balloon and continued enjoying the flight. We all laughed even more, not including her. ”
During the time that a flight lasts, Luis manipulates some lighters that give off a hot flame to handle the balloon. I ask if the fire has ever affected you. “No way,” he says. “I always say that the ladies withstand more heat in the hair dryer.”
Most of its clients have different languages and cultures. That’s why, in addition to being a pilot, he becomes an animator so that his passengers, when they land, are left with the desire to fly again.
Luis Leonardo in the center. I am at his side, on the left, taking a photograph. Luis to the center. I’m at his side, on the left, taking a picture.