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First wheelchair accessible hot air balloon soars in NSW’s Hunter Valley 

In a momentous occasion for inclusive tourism, the Hunter Valley witnessed the inaugural flight of New South Wales’ first wheelchair accessible hot air balloon. This groundbreaking development has opened up the world of hot air ballooning to individuals with mobility access requirements, making this adventure accessible to all. 

The visionary project was brought to life by Balloon Aloft, with support from the NSW Government, Cessnock City Council and Invictus Australia. Their collective mission is to foster equitable tourism experiences for individuals with disabilities plus their support networks.  

A memorable chapter in this remarkable journey unfolded when Jye Martyn, Invictus Australia’s Regional Veteran Engagement Manager, orchestrated a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for Hunter Valley local and Vietnam veteran, David LeBrocque.  

When asked of this amazing experience David LeBrocque said “I know this opportunity will open up avenues for other adaptive adventure seekers out there, and for them to see a person with a disability like mine do this and know they are able to experience the same thing is very exciting, I am truly humbled to be the first flight participant.” 

The key component of this initiative is the accessible balloon basket, specially designed to eliminate barriers and ensure a seamless experience for all passengers. The wheelchair-accessible basket boasts a convenient access door, negating the need for passengers to struggle with cumbersome climbs. What’s more, it features tailored seating and harnesses, assuring comfort and safety for passengers with varying mobility needs. 

Balloon Aloft, a fixture in the Hunter Valley for 43 years, is proud to introduce this groundbreaking tourism experience. Pilot and General Manager Matthew Scaife expressed the company’s enthusiasm for providing individuals with limited mobility the opportunity to experience the thrill of hot air ballooning. 

“We believe everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy this amazing experience, and our new balloon will make that possible for more people than ever before. It’s wonderful to see this dream come true with the launch of our Hunter Valley Accessible Balloon Flights,” Mr. Scaife remarked. 

This type of collaboration is one of the core pillars of Invictus Australia’s (IA) mission to bring veterans and their families together with sport and recreation activities to help strengthen wellbeing and create positive experiences. Jye Martyn’s role at IA sees him and other frontline staff, known as Regional Veteran Engagement Managers, work to directly foster this connection through a multitude of events and activities Australia-wide. For more information on the events on offer please visit the Invictus Australia events page. 

Jye, a wounded veteran himself, was also able to take part in this amazing opportunity. When asked about his experience Jye quoted Steve Jobs by saying; 

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  

We couldn’t agree more Jye. 

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