The PIHABF or Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival is an annual event showcasing everything related to aviation. It is usually held between January and February at various places in Clark Freeport Zone, Angeles City, Pampanga and usually runs for 4 days. This year will be the 22nd iteration of this event, taking place on February 8 to 11.
The PIHABF has its origins in 1994. Then-Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, along with John Emery of British Airways, aviation enthusiast Max Motschmann and businessman and hot air balloon pilot Sung Kee Paik, decided to hold this festival to give the local economy a jump-start through tourism and promote aviation, particularly hot air ballooning (hence the name).
The success of the first event convinced the organizers that this ought to be held yearly. Year after year, various attractions have been added to make the current one better than the previous. Since it aims to promote aviation, organizers invite various aviation enthusiasts from the Philippines and around the world – light aircraft pilots, helicopter pilots, skydivers, hang gliders and more.
Aviation schools are also on the organizers’ list of invitees as this allows them to promote their school and encourage the youth to try a career path in the aviation industry. Several big names like the PATTS College of Aeronautics has always been present in the PIHABF. They have attracted many young ones to embark on such career.
Even the Armed Forces of the Philippines gets into the act as well. The Philippine Air Force as well as the Philippine Navy, even the Philippine National Police and Philippine Coast Guard display their air assets and capabilities during the PIHABF. They too take this opportunity to attract people to have a career in the military.
What to Expect?
The following are some of the attractions you will see in the PIHABF:
- Hot Air Balloon Flights. This is the centerpiece of the event. People get the chance to ride these flying objects where the feeling is exhilarating as riding on a moving aircraft.
- Aerobatic exhibitions. See pilots perform awesome flying in the skies. This year, the organizers have invited renowned aerobatic pilot Sean Clarke.
- Professional skydivers put on a show by free-falling. Interested individuals may also give it a try, with newcomers doing a tandem jump.
- Balloon Bursting. Pilots are tested for their precision flying skill as they burst the balloon in the air with their aircraft.
- These are unpowered aircraft towed by a powered aircraft or launched from the ground. Related here is paragliding where you strap on an open parachute launched by the wind and stay aloft as long as possible. There is also a powered version where paragliders use an engine to lift them up into the air and stay aloft.
- Microlight or Ultralight Flying. This is done by the Angeles City Flying Club as part of promoting their group and giving people a taste of riding and possibly flying light aircraft which can be a step to flying larger and more powerful ones.
- “Fly Market.” Various stalls give the PIHABF a carnival-like atmosphere.
- Search and Rescue (SAR) Demonstrations. The Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard uses the PIHABF to demonstrate their SAR capabilities which will be employed in times of emergency.
- Static Display. The AFP, particularly the Philippine Air Force, always have an Open House where they allow the public to view their aircraft, equipment and capabilities.
For more details, visit the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Website.