Lindsay Muir, 41


Hot air balloon pilot


approx pounds 20,000 Address

East Molesey, Surrey

Describe what you do

I fly passengers in different sized balloons. Some take five passengers and others up to 19 - I'm the only person in the country flying these big balloons. The flights, which usually last an hour, will be early in the morning or just before sunset, often at weekends. I work from launch fields all over the Home Counties. The trips are always mystery tours. You take off when the wind is calmest and have a fair idea where you are going, but it's the journey that's important. There are magical views of the tops of hills and sometimes valleys full of mist - just sensational. You see a lot of small animals - deer, hares - and you can actually hear the skylarks singing. It's very peaceful apart from the burners which go off every 30 seconds.

When we land we meet up with the ground crew who follow in a Land Rover. The balloon is put in a trailer and we all get shoehorned in for the trip back to the launch field. No balloon trip is complete without a glass of champagne afterwards.

How does your day start?

During the summer my clock will be set for about four so I leave my husband, Graham, and our four-year-old daughter, Chloe, sleeping. I've never been a breakfast person but I have a hot drink. I leave the house around 5.30am.

What do you wear?

A sweatshirt, smartish robust trousers and boots. Even in summer the fields can be wet.

What's your journey like?

I listen to Radio 4 but at that hour of the morning you catch the end of the World Service. I'm in a bit of a mindless daze.

What kind of passengers do you have?

They vary enormously, from 80-year-old grannies to a 13-year-old child. (Children have to be tall enough to be able to see over the side of the basket without standing on anything.) I find that the sort of people who come up in winter are more likely to get involved in getting things ready. I especially enjoy elderly passengers - they are so enthusiastic.

What do you do for lunch?

I go home for brunch after the first flight. If I phone Graham on route he'll get things started. He hates cooking. I walk into a house and get knocked over by a small, excited child wishing to be entertained. I eat a full English breakfast, my meal for the day - I'll be on my way out again before dinner.

What stresses you out most at work?

The build up - will we actually fly today? It's down to judgement but occasionally the forecasters get it wrong. There have been times when I've thought, I really don't want to be up here. One flight last year, the forecast said that the wind was 15 knots at a thousand feet but it turned out to be nearer 25. I went to land in a large field and the balloon was dragged right across it. A barn, road and power lines loomed. I thought the balloon would never stop. It did, just. But balloon flying is usually very safe - I have only had three or four flights like this in 1,500. You just have to stay calm.

What are the perks?

The job itself is a perk. I love being out in the countryside and I hate routines so this is great. Every flight, every passenger, is different.

What are your hours?

Anything from 15 hours a day to nothing due to bad weather. You are not allowed to fly if it is too windy, visibility is poor or if it is raining - the balloon gets too heavy and the passengers get wet.

How much holiday do you take?

I don't have conventional holidays and my work is all weekends and evenings. I take busman's holidays, competing around the world. One year I went to France, Turkey, Brazil and Japan.

What do you do when you stop work?

I try to keep fit, running, swimming. Sometimes friends invite me to a barbecue and I say I can only go if the weather's bad.

What's the first thing you do when you get home?

Go to bed. It could be midnight and I might be up to again at 4.30am.

How do you feel on a Sunday night?

Absolutely knackered.

Sky Trek Ballooning: 01474-702112