Two hot balloons landed in Wanniassa - one outside the Red Rooster at the local shops and another on land next to Sulwood Drive - but the company involved said both were "precautionary" rather than emergency landings.
Balloon Aloft Canberra chief pilot Richard Gillespie said his ballooon had been heading from Tuggeranong to The Mint oval at Deakin on Sunday morning when the decision was taken to land it mid journey as a precaution when the wind died down and there was a risk of it becoming becalmed over residential areas.
Mr Gillespie, who was piloting the balloon that landed at Red Rooster, said he first headed for nearby ovals at Wanniassa but then aimed for a grassed area between the Wanniassa shops and Athllon Drive, before ultimately landing slightly further away outside Red Rooster in Rylah Crescent, due to a change in wind direction.
The balloon flying over southern Canberra. Photo: Supplied
The other balloon landed about the same time - around 9.20am on Sunday - on a verge on the southern edge of Sulwood Drive near Mount Taylor.
Mr Gillespie said both had been ‘‘perfectly safe, controlled, gentle’’ landings, with the balloons holding plenty of fuel.
‘‘It was a precautionary landing because we didn’t want to be becalmed over a suburb. It’s much safer to land in an area like that where we’ve got space to deflate the balloon and it’s not endangering anyone,’’ he said.
Mr Gillespie maintained Athllon Drive and the carpark at the shops were not busy when they landed.
‘‘We do try not to land on or near roads if we can help it but that’s always a better option than risking flying in very light winds over a suburb,’’ he said.
‘‘The wind had decreased and it was a safe landing option with the very light wind that we had.’’
The balloon that landed at Red Rooster was carrying 16 passengers and the pilot. The other one was carrying eight passengers plus the pilot, Balloon Aloft managing director Ewan Roberts.
They had taken off from near Bunnings at Tuggeranong about an hour earlier.
Mr Roberts said the company had done other similar landings during its 27 years of operation and there was nothing unusual about them. He maintained his first plan was always to land near Sulwood Drive or else continue on to the Mint.
‘‘We can only go where the wind takes us and that’s ballooning. That’s what makes it interesting,’’ Mr Roberts said.
Mr Gillespie said that while hot air balloons were not often seen in Tuggeranong, companies did fly there at times when it was too foggy in central Canberra.
‘‘It’s not unusual for us to fly out in that area but it’s not that regular either,’’ he said.
Mr Gillespie said there had been no indication from the weather forecasts that the wind would die out.
The balloons caused a stir in Wanniassa. Some residents reported the balloons being so low they could hear the passengers in the basket talking. One family was so excited they went to the shops still in their pyjamas to see it.
Mr Gillespie said the passengers had not been upset.
‘‘They thought it was great. They thought it was the highlight of the trip. They enjoyed an interesting landing,’’ he said.
An ACT Policing spokesman said police had to direct traffic on Rylah Crescent for about 15 minutes while the balloon was removed.