The Team at
Liberty Balloon FlightsNick 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.
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’s 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.
Pilot and Senior Crew
Dean is your larger than life pilot and senior crew. He is our oldest and newest Pilot …. Dean fell in love with hot air ballooning in 1996 after seeing the balloons in the air every July, at the Mildura International Balloon Festival. His first involvement in ballooning was as an Observer during the festival. This took him to Japan in 1999 & 2000 for the Saga International Balloon Festival where there were up to 130 Hot Air Balloons in the sky at one time.
In 2006, Dean became a Private Pilot and for many years has enjoyed flying festivals, and events around the world: France, New Zealand and Taiwan; and in Australia with his pilot friends, flying over places like Canberra, Yarra, Hunter and Barossa Valleys, Sydney , and country NSW just to name a few. He came back to Melbourne in 2014, where he was lucky enough to gain employment as Ground Crew for one of the Melbourne and Yarra Valley Balloon Companies.
Recently, Dean obtained his Commercial Pilot’s Licence and is now flying our passengers in Geelong.
This is not a job, for Dean, it’s a passion……..
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!
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!”
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.
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.
Crew, General Operations, Personal Assistant and Sundries
Melissa is relatively new to hot air ballooning but has been intoxicated by the peaceful adventure from the first introduction in October 2018. Melissa works her involvement in Liberty Balloon Flights around her regular day job, crewing on weekends, and helping with the general business and operational activities as needed by Nick. Melissa has been instrumental in providing easy to use tools for pilots and crew alike and ensuring documentation and manuals, certifications and other paperwork are maintained.
Melissa loves travel, hiking and trail running, which allows her to enjoy good food, good wine and good company
Violeta Brau Mugica
Bookings and Marketing
Violeta is running both 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, now it is ballroom dancing which stands out as her main activity outside her studies and work. As competitors, she and dance partner Jordan Saisi do very well at championship level in Australia and they proudly represent the nation at international competitions around the World. In 2020 Violeta was one of the professional dancers on “Dancing With The Stars”, partnering with Travis Cloke. Watch this space!
D’Artagnan BrauCrew 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.
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.