When North Rothbury’s Peter Vizzard started hot air ballooning in 1966 there were just 12 balloons flying world-wide – now there are more than 12,000.
The balloon pioneer has been recognised on the Australia Day Honours List with an Order of Australia Medal for his service to hot air ballooning and tourism.
With more than 50 years experience in the skies, Mr Vizzard has plenty of amazing stories to tell.
He won the World Hot Air Balloon Championship in 1983 and has flown in more than 30 different countries.
But as well as the fun side, Mr Vizzard has been involved in creating safety regulations through the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
“It’s been a real passion of mine,” he said. “I helped write regulation so pilots could have the freedom they deserve.
“It was tough dealing with the bureaucracy, but it is now seen as a legitimate form of aviation.”
Mr Vizzard founded Balloon Aloft in 1980 before he sold it to retire in 2007. He still flies with Beyond Ballooning, but in more of a mentor role now.
Mr Vizzard said receiving an OAM was not only an honour, but a boost for ballooning in general.
“It’s a great privilege, it’s good for the sport. It means we’ve been accepted.”