The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is an annual event that occurs between January and February at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark Field , Angeles City , Pampanga . It features multicolored hot air balloons with more than a hundred balloon pilots from around the world. This three day hot air balloon event is the biggest aviation sports event in the country.
The festival also features a number of events in skydiving , flag jumps, micro light and rocketry demonstrations, small plane fly-bys and fly-ins, remote-control airplane and helicopter flying exhibitions, freestyle aerobatics , precision maneuvers, light airplane balloon bursting, ultra-light flying formation and bomb dropping, kite-making and choreographed kite-flying, hi-start launch gliding, pylon racing, banner towing, aero-modeling symposium and races between ultra lights and motorcycles. An estimated 60,000 visitors locally and from around the world come in to see this event.
In 1994, three years after the devastating effects of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor together with Korean businessman and hot-air balloon pilot, Mr. Sung Kee Paik, and British Airways General Manager, Mr. John Emery, engineered the Philippine International hot air balloon festival to help jumpstart the local economy and spirit of the Central Luzon region with the commitment of developing hot air ballooning as an aviation sport in the country and making the Philippines one of the leading sports aviation and travel destinations in the Asia Pacific region. The 1994 event originally organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Hot Air Balloon Club, and British Airways initially began with 21 balloon pilots from 10 countries and one entry from the Philippines. The success of the festival in 1994 brought about an increase in the number of participants in 1995 to 27 balloons including a basketless one-man balloon and two entries from the Philippines. The 1995 festival also saw the introduction of ultra light planes to the events.
By 1996 responsibility of the event was transferred from the Department of Tourism to Air Ads, Inc. under the watchful eyes of Captain Joy Roa who is also an avid licensed balloon pilot. Between 1996 and 1998, the growing popularity of the festival was expanded to include other aero-sports activities such as sky diving, paragliding , motorized hang gliding , remote controlled model aircraft (aero modelers), and kite flying. Aerobatic stunts and precision maneuvers courtesy of the Blue Diamonds and later the Red Aces of the Philippine Air Force became a regular attraction of the festival.
Financial difficulties in 1999 led to the cancellation of the festival, but saw a resurgence in 2000 with 12 balloons and 18 light planes from Thailand, Japan and Singapore, all participating in an air rally which has become a regular component of the festivities. 2003 saw a change in the traditional ballooning format. Specially designed balloons in the shape of a flying newspaper from Korea and a large dog from Japan made their debut over the Pampanga skyline. Balloon participation from Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands drew crowds from around the world.
Currently, the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival continues to be a popular international sports aviation event. The 2006 festival featured 30 multicolored hot air balloons and more than a hundred balloon pilots from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. It also drew an approximated 60,000 visitors to the event.