Our Team

The Team at

Liberty Balloon Flights

Nick Brau – Director, Chief Pilot
Your Chief Pilot at Liberty Balloon Flights

Born in the UK in 1962, Nick lived a great part of his life in Argentina, mainly Buenos Aires and Bariloche in the Patagonian Andes. From an early age he became a member of the Andean Club in Bariloche, where he learnt to ski and took part in all types mountaineering and climbing activities. He later complemented this with Outward Bound courses in England and Scotland.

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He learnt to fly aeroplanes and received his first license when he was 19 years old. At 22 he graduated as a trekking and mountaineering guide in the first course ever run by the Argentine Mountaineering Guide Association. He subsequently worked for a few years as a mountain guide and outdoor activities instructor during the summer and on the ski slopes during winter.

This passion for altitude and flight eventually brought him to discover ballooning at the beginning of the 1990s while living in the UK. He learnt to fly balloons with Terry McCoy in the town of Bath and he later worked for Virgin Airship and Balloon Company, then owned by Richard Branson, where he learnt how these aircraft could be used for advertising brands and products. In 1995 he moved back to Argentina with his family and ran his own balloon company called “Garuda Vuelos en Globo”, with which he flew passengers and used ballooning for promotions with flights all around South America. Pioneering flights as far South as Calafate, in Southern Patagonia and in spectacular locations like Mendoza at the foot of the Andes and the Iguazu falls in the tropical North, Garuda developed this branding alternative in Argentina, where Nick won the National Ballooning Championships three times. Nick stint in the Americas culminated on a contract to fly over 37 cities in Mexico for a mobile phone company using a balloon to promote the brand.

The Melbourne Move

In 2002 Nick moved to Melbourne, Australia, on a contract to fly over the city and has since made Melbourne his home. By 2021 Nick has accumulated over 3800 hours flying both conventional and special shaped balloons and has flown over more than 100 cities all over the World. He has unusual experience due to the fact a very high proportion of his airborne hours have been flown over cities and in controlled airspace, which is unusual in hot air balloons. Nick has been a senior city pilot for many years and was Chief Pilot for two of Melbourne’s balloon companies until he decided to branch off to open his own company, and this is how Liberty Balloon Flights was born.

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Dan Gillespie
Area Manager – Commercial Balloon Pilot

Originally born in the UK, Dan moved to Sydney, Australia when he was 6 so his father Richard could continue flying when he started school. Dan’s school years were spent going to school late so he could go ballooning beforehand… life is good for some!

Dan started to learn to fly when he was 14 and got his first balloon when he was 17, shortly followed by receiving his private pilot licence. Whilst building the hours to get his commercial licence, Dan worked as a chef and in retail whilst also crewing commercially. Dan received his commercial licence at the young age 21, flying in Canberra and Hunter Valley. It wasn’t long before he left the retail job to fly full time. Since them, he formed a habit of chasing the summer around the globe and has flown in the UK, France, Myanmar, USA, and multiple locations in Australia.

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When he is not flying commercially, he enjoys competing in ballooning competitions and has represented Australia at 3 junior world championships in France, Lithuania, and Poland.

Away from ballooning, Dan enjoys camping, hiking and getting out in nature!

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Paul Kavanagh
Commercial Balloon Pilot

A lifetime of ballooning,
Paul has been part of ballooning in Australia since 1973.

Born into a family that created the only Hot Air Balloon manufacturing company in Australia, this connection has brought about a wide experience in private, commercial, competitive and adventure flying, including being part of the first expedition to fly over Mt Everest.

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Paul has crewed balloon competitions in Canada, Japan, UAE and Europe, as well as flying commercially in Geelong, Bendigo, Melbourne, the Yarra Valley and the Hunter valley.

Apart from all that ballooning, the entertainment industry has provided an enjoyable career, rigging in theatre, festivals and managing public events.

"Working at heights is never a problem for me, whether it's climbing the truss on a gig, or flying a balloon up to 7000 feet to find the right breeze."

Producing live and electronic music is his great escape from the serious business of having fun in balloons.

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Simon Beare

Simon is our gentle pilot. Flying for Simon is a spiritual experience to be enjoyed in mind and body. Simon has been in the industry for 30 years. Crewing for many ballooning companies on weekends. Simon became a pilot 20 years ago and turned his hobby into a living as a commercial pilot 10 years ago, flying passengers as much as possible for the love of it while getting paid as well!

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Simon is part of the Australian hot air balloon team that represents Australia in the biennial world championships. This has taken him to all parts of the globe. He also has flown in the Australian ballooning championships and has the dubious honour of coming first and last over the years!! Currently simon is flying for us in Geelong and loves the hidden beauty of Geelong and it’s surrounds.

When not flying balloons, Simon is an award-winning carpenter, registered builder and licensed master builder with 40 years’ experience. His greatest love is sharing the magic of floating in a balloon with his passengers; be it, 100mm above the ground or 10,000ft above the ground, just stealing a moment in time and space. Simon would say “it is a truly humbling experience to do what he does and feels constantly blessed to be able to share the wonder of ballooning with all who choose to step up and say , count me in , that’s for me!”

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Darren Morgan, MA – HAAMC
Our Head of Aircraft Maintenance

Over the last 20+ years, Darren has been maintaining parachutes, balloons, restraints and manufacturing textile solutions for the aviation industry.

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Darren holds the following qualifications:
  • CASA Maintenance Authority (Manned Free Balloons)
  • CASA Maintenance Authority (Weight Control Balloons)
  • APF Parachute Rigger
  • APF Licenced Display Organiser
  • Certificate III Aircraft Life Support and Furnishing
  • APF Certificate “E” skydiving licence
  • ABF Private Pilots Certificate (Balloons)
  • Appointment of APF Rigger Examiner

He completed Maintenance courses for Kavanagh Balloons (Australia) and Cameron Balloons (UK).

He has held the position of Chair of Rigging on the Victorian Parachute Council.

Darren has run 3 businesses: TroubleChute Rigging, Aviation Textile Maintenance Pty Ltd and currently operates as a sole trader under his own name.

While operating TroubleChute Rigging and Aviation Textile Maintenance. Darren held a CAR 30 Certificate of Approval, allowing maintenance for Hot Air Balloons, Parachutes and Restraints. There was a time when Aviation Textile Maintenance was responsible for maintaining most of the balloons operating in Victoria. Both commercial and private. Darren has offered CASA approved courses for balloonists to gain their Maintenance Authority.

Darren is well regarded in the Aviation industry by all stakeholders and is often sought after for his opinion on maintenance issues.

An active skydiver until 2015, Darren keeps his interest in sports parachuting by organizing parachute displays and balloon jumps.

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Abigail Stolp
Office and Systems Manager

Born in New Zealand, our newest member to the Liberty Balloon Flights office has gained diverse experiences throughout her career, including working as an electrician, hotel assistant manager, and ground crew. With her impressive background and skills, Abigail ensures that our office runs smoothly and efficiently.

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When Abigail isn't working, she enjoys spending time with her dog on nature walks and reading science fiction books. Her love for traveling takes her to new destinations and cultures.

Equipped with valuable skills such as attention to detail, organizational and problem-solving abilities, Abigail has common sense. With a warm and friendly nature, there is also a wry sense of humour hidden from the unsuspecting. A force to be reckoned with.

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Violeta Brau Mugica
Bookings and Marketing

Violeta is helping run our booking system, social media, and our marketing strategies. Young Violeta is an amazing bundle of passions so don’t let her young age fool you. Having danced Flamenco since the age of eight and later transitioning to ballroom dancing, she represented Australia at competitions around the World. In 2020 Violeta was one of the professional dancers on “Dancing With The Stars”, partnering with Travis Cloke. In 2023 Violeta was accepted into The National Institute of Dramatic Arts, in Sydney, on her way to complete a career in acting. Watch this space!

D’Artagnan Brau
Crew and student pilot

A bit of a gypsy this one. If he is not travelling with his music or in search of some kind of adventure in life, D’Artagnan is one of our drivers and ground crew. Darti is also learning to fly. A karate black belt and keen in all things fitness, he makes sure there is Omega 3 around the place and that we all remember to do our stretches. If you meet him you will not easily forget him.

Paul Gruber
Crew Chief and Student Pilot

Paul is our Crew Chief and is also starting on his path to become a pilot. A qualified environmental engineer, Paul alternates between his regular work testing soils and cleaning it from contaminants with his discovered passion of hot air ballooning. As a keen photographer, he is involved in documenting the flights and helps us implement digital systems for our images and those the passengers can purchase after a flight. He ensures documentation and manuals, certifications and other paperwork are maintained in a compliant state and we LOVE that he has taken over this role.

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Paul is a fitness enthusiast always up for adventure, though not always so peaceful! When he’s not chasing balloons around the city you’ll often find him in the bush exploring new and exciting places by kayak, mountain bike or on foot. His sport is Adventure Racing and he also runs a charity event The Upstream Challenge. You can find out more on www.upstreamfoundation.org

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Sean Padgett
Ground Crew and All Rounder

Sean, our Lead Crew for Perth (Avon Valley), was born in Scotland and has since lived all over the world. With a diverse background that includes oil and gas engineering, motorbike transport, airbrush artistry, ground crew, and project management, Sean brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team, making him a valuable asset in ensuring that our hot air balloon flights run smoothly.

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When Sean isn't working hard, he enjoys pursuing his passions, such as airbrush art and being an active member of his local Spencers Brook community. He's also an avid project motorbike enthusiast and has a pet parrot that he adores.

Aside from his impressive skill set, Sean also has a knack for connecting with people from different backgrounds. His unique experiences living all over the world have given him a global perspective, and he always approaches his work with dedication, enthusiasm, and a warm and welcoming attitude. Don’t be fooled by his quiet nature, the guy has a sharp sense of humour. A real Scot.

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Cris Setuain
Digital Marketing

Cris is the remotest member of our team as she lives in Patagonia, Argentina, in the beautiful Andean city of Bariloche...as you can imagine, this makes the coordination of our meetings an absolute challenge! Cris is our marketing guru, guiding us through the digital marketing labyrinth in order to increase awareness of our wonderful and peaceful adventure among travellers. When she is not working you may find her on the ski slopes, gardening or reading a book. She is a passionate traveller and confesses that food and wine are top in her to do’s list during any trip.

Mr Peter
Introducing Peter Wright, our Ballooning Maverick!

From childhood, Pete has been obsessed with war birds and jets, never considering the ancient art of ballooning. But fate had other plans! A chance conversation with a friend led him to explore ballooning as a potential career.

In 1997, Peter joined a Yarra Valley operator as a crew member and began his training as a student pilot. He embarked on exciting adventures, touring with a promotional balloon and learning from skilled commercial pilots from around the world.

Peter's dedication paid off as he earned his Private Pilot Certificate and discovered his passion for competition ballooning. He soared to new heights, representing Australia in three World Championships and achieving top finishes in the Australian Nationals.

With around 20 years of commercial flying experience over Melbourne and the stunning Avon Valley in Western Australia, Peter's skills are as impressive as his flying feats. When he's not up in the air, he indulges in competition ballooning, snow skiing, and camping.

As a proud father to two teenage daughters and an avid supporter of the St. Kilda AFL team, Peter brings a contagious enthusiasm, skill, and a touch of maverick spirit to our ballooning adventures. Get ready to soar with Peter and experience the thrill of the skies like never before!

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Liberty Balloon Flights


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