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Australian National University (ANU) Science Student and NYSF alumnus James Ansell has added a unique string to his bow, becoming the first young person to graduate from Scouts ACT’s balloon pilot training program and receive his private pilot certification from the Australian Ballooning Federation.

Scouts ACT received funding to purchase the hot air balloon during the Centenary of Canberra in 2013 and their training program aims to train one pilot per year.

Not your usual “high flying” student - content image


James is studying astrophysics/astronomy and science communication, and says attending the NYSF in 2009 definitely contributed to his decision to enrol at the ANU.  “It offered the chance to study both of these disciplines at the same time – it seemed an ideal place to come.”  That this has led to him being able to train as a balloon pilot is unexpected.

“It was a very unique opportunity … to get a balloon licence,” says James, who studied for two years doing both theory and practical training for his license.

James is looking forward to navigating the Scouts ACT balloon above Canberra once he has 50 hours of flying experience.  His ‘ultimate flight path’?  “Anywhere in the country with tonnes of empty space, good scenery and access for the retrieve crew to come and get me.  And a good bakery to get brekky from afterwards.”

Research by Julie Maynard