22 Apr 2024

Neil Robertson and Aleš Kubíček inducted into the CIA International Ballooning & Airship Hall of Fame

By Lynne Newton, Exhibitions Curator, Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

The FAI Ballooning Commission (CIA) and the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, the home of the CIA International Balloon and Airship Hall of Fame, are delighted to announce that Neil Roberston of the United Kingdom (top picture, left) and Aleš Kubíček (top picture, right) of the Czech Republic are this year’s inductees to the CIA Hall of Fame. The announcement was made at the CIA Annual Meeting last March in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The induction ceremony will take place at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum on Friday 4 October 2024. The Balloon Museum extends its congratulations to the honorees and their families on being brought into this exclusive cadre of distinguished aeronauts.

Neil Robertson  (1937 - 2023)

Neil Robertson entered the ballooning world in 1973 when he created the original G-OLLE balloon with Don Cameron. A commercial balloon, it advertised Robertson's food company and flew at the 600th anniversary celebration of the city of Bristol, England. The next year, Robertson built another G-OLLE, which took part in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and the 2nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship in 1975.

In 1977, the FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship was held at Castle Howard in England and was sponsored by Robertson's. G-OLLI, the first Cameron-built special shape balloon, first appeared there.

Robertson was in charge of overseas development for Robertson’s and flew the “Golly” balloons in forty-three countries. Also an airplane pilot, Robertson flew the company plane.

Robertson competed in the 1st FAI World Rozière Balloon Championship in 1990 flying G-WRLD, placing third. He helped organize six World Hot Air Balloon Championships. He received a Certificate of Appreciation from the FAI in 1995 for his service as the FAI Ballooning Commission Secretary.

In 1997, Robertson organized the first FAI World Air Games in Türkiye, and again in Spain in 2001. Understanding the potential for hot air balloon flying in Cappadocia, he started Sultan Balloons and spent a joyous decade putting this region on the hot air ballooning map. Robertson received the FAI Bronze Medal for his tenure organizing FAI sporting events in 2001.

Aleš Kubíček (born 1955)

Aleš Kubíček’s story in ballooning does not involve breaking records, but rather how he worked “against the wall” in the 1980’s in Czechoslovakia to start a balloon manufacturing company. Under difficult circumstances he did so by rallying like-minded friends to pool resources and their love of flying, and they created one of the most successful balloon companies in the world.

Kubíček became a licensed pilot in 1983, the same year he and the Aviatik Klub Brno made their first model and the now famous OVO balloon. In 1992, after the Velvet Revolution, Kubicek Balloons was started as a private company with ten employees. In 1996 the company established a mill, which produces a very special fabric that is known as “Kubicek Polyester.” Kubicek Balloons is the only manufacturer in the world to produce, coat, and color their own fabric. By 1998 Kubicek Balloons had built its 100th balloon! To date, with 140 employees, Kubicek companies have made 2,300 hot air balloons, 1,300 baskets, 2,750 burners, 20,000 inflatables, and eight airplanes.

Kubíček was inducted into the Czech Balloon Association Hall of Fame in 2013. He received a FAI Ballooning Montgolfier Diploma in 2017 for his lifelong contributions to the ballooning community.  Earlier this year the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space Program of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic awarded him for extraordinary contributions.

Aleš Kubíček’s vision is that everybody should have a chance to fly a balloon. He has fulfilled his destiny by building balloons that people love to fly.