Walter Simonson (Belgium)
Has been working for IBM as an data processing engineer for over 26 years.
Walter has a private pilot licence for airplanes since 1970 and 1030 flight hours. In 1971 he also became glider pilot (2215 flight hours). Nearly every year, in July, he takes his glider to the Alps to fly in the mountains. Moreover he is glider instructor.
He experienced his first balloon flights with Gérard Delforge and Henry Vanderlinden when Belgium counted only 3 or 4 registered balloons (1971). These two men were the Belgian ballooning pioneers. Living a very busy life he didn’t have time enough to combine all of his flying activities with his profession and his family (in 1971 and 1972 he also was a parachutist).
Only many years later, in 1988-1989, ballooning became important again. He obtained his licence and bought a balloon, but his commercial licence had to wait till 1993. Up to this moment he has performed 350 flight hours in a balloon, amongst which 113 hours in a gas balloon. He started with gasballooning in 1997 and was instructed by the Leys brothers. His first flight in a gas balloon, together with Vincent and Franzi Leys, occurred exactly one week before they won their first Gordon Bennett race. Since 2001 Walter is in the possession of a French gas ballooning licence. His longest flight in a gas balloon, with Vincent and Franzi Leys, lasted 39 hours: from Chambley to Bergerac and spending two nights aboard the balloon.
In 2001 and 2002 he was a member of the ground crew of Vincent and Franzi during the Gordon Bennett race. It was his responsibility to ensure the communication between the balloon and the chase crew.
In 2002 he break together with Benoît Siméons a new Belgian Distance record in a hot-air balloon (502 km in 9hours 8minutes, average speed 30 knots) from St Hubert to Bretagne (Fr).