Can you imagine not being allowed to fly the flag of your country? Worse still, being arrested, imprisoned and even tortured for doing so? For the people of Tibet this is an everyday reality designed to suppress their identity as Tibetans and to force them conform to Chinese rule.

The idea for the Tibet Balloon arose out of the passion and expertise of two people with an interest in both hot air ballooning and the issues facing the Tibetan people.

Heaven Crawley has worked with refugees for more than 20 years and most recently has been working with young Tibetans in Sikkim, North East India. Heaven is also a hot air balloon pilot. Paul Dopson is a commercial hot air balloon pilot who has flown at many high profile international events generating huge publicity for a range of clients.

Heaven and Paul have often flown the Tibet flag from their own balloon and many people have asked about its meaning and significance. One day they had an idea…why not build a hot air balloon in the design of the Tibet flag so that it could be seen by thousands of people raising awareness of the Tibetan issue?

And so the idea for the Tibet Balloon was born.

Over a six month period Heaven and Paul worked closely with the Office of Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Britain to develop their ideas and to raise funds for the project.

A Facebook page was established to generate interest in the project around the world and over the months that followed a number of very generous individuals made donations to enable the balloon to be put into production.

A series of designs based on the Tibet flag were commissioned from the balloon manufacturer. The final design of the Tibet Balloon faithfully follows the symbolism of the flag in a three-dimensional form. In fact the Tibet Balloon actually carries two flags so that it can be seen from all angles. The images below show the different preliminary designs for the balloon as well as the final one-dimensional building plan which formed the basis for the manufacturing process. The manufacturer also produced a CGI video to show how the Tibet Balloon would look in flight.

 

After months of planning and fund raising the Tibet hot air balloon took to the skies for the first time on Saturday July 11th 2015.

The ceremony took place in the gardens of the Buddhist Monastery of Garraf near Barcelona in northern Spain. The Tibet Balloon was blessed by the Most Venerable Jamyang Tashi Dorje Rinpoche in front of a gathered crowd of monks, Buddhist practitioners, Tibetan supporters and the national media. During the blessing the Rinpoche gave the balloon a Tibetan Buddhist name, Tashi Gyaltsen, and she will now be known as ‘Tashi’. Pictures from the day can be found here.