About us

 

Vytautas Samarinas
Founder and director, pilot-instructor of Hot Air Lines

I became interested in aeronautics in 1997 while studying in Kaunas. My first flight with Valerijus Machnorylovas, a hot air balloon pilot and Boeing captain, made such a profound impression on me that afterwards I firmly decided to make hot air balloons a part of my life. To tell you the truth, even as an overly enthusiastic second-year student I could never have imagined that three years later hot air balloons would go from being a hobby to being my way of life.
 
Apart from an aerostat pilot’s licence I got in Lithuania, I also have commercial pilot’s licences of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Kenya. Since 2001, I have gained more than 1,700 hours of flight experience.
 
In 2006–2007 together with the alpinist Vladas Vitkauskas we broke Lithuania’s records of flight distance (334 km non-stop), duration (9.21 hrs) and altitude (10,064 m). Pilot-Instructor Robertas Komža and I fulfilled our dream to cross the Southeast Alps: we took off from Italy, flew across Austria and, after flying more than 220 km, landed in Slovenia. Still, what I enjoy most is taking passengers for a first flight. They often ask which of my flights was the best. And I always answer – the best flight is today!
 
In 2013, I spent more time in the air than I did on the ground. That year I flew hot air balloons not only in Lithuania and its neighbouring countries, but also in Turkey, the USA and Mexico, and began the flight season of 2014 in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Wherever I fly, the good emotions, smiles and the vast sky speak to me in a language that is both universal and unique. Its name is aeronautics!
 
 
 

Artūras Kukštys
Senior pilot

I had my first flight experience at the age of five. I was watching some parachutists descend and I climbed up on a bench for better view. Barely a minute later I started feeling dizzy – I was flying, too, but not as successfully as those people with domes over their heads. The result? A broken collarbone. But this small boyish accident didn’t deter me from admiring aviation.
 
In 2011 I had my first hot air balloon flight with Vytautas Samarinas, who is not only my instructor, but also the godfather of my first-flight baptism. My baptismal name is “FlyLaL Balloons Pilot sir Aero Extremaniac von Awesome Weather”. I find hot air balloons one of the safest and friendliest forms of flying. I enjoy them because you can both experience the beauty of the flight yourself and see the smiles and the happiness in the eyes of your passengers. Which is why in the spring of 2012 I found myself holding Pilot’s Licence No. 168 in my hands. There are now over 500 hours on my flight record book.
 
I am not only a hot air balloon pilot, but also a free flight paraglider pilot. I’ve held a Para Pro Stage 3 licence since 2007. I regularly take part in competitions and dangerous-situation simulation training, and my future plans include obtaining a tandem paragliding pilot’s licence. All of this helps me be more sensitive to the subtleties of flying.
 
I believe that flying makes people good. I wish everyone could take off and feel the freedom of flight at least once in their lives.
 
 
 
 

Eugenijus Jakubauskas
Pilot

I had a dream to become hot air balloon pilot ever since I saw a picture in my school textbook – a picture of a balloon filled with hot air, flying over a chimney and into the sky. I dreamt of taking off like that; but my dream seemed unattainable.

In 1999, a friend of mine came to Lithuania from Germany. She told me she would be taking examinations for a hot air balloon pilot’s licence. I was surprised to learn that this was actually possible. The very next day I was already flying into the sky, and although that was on a tethered balloon, I was overwhelmed. The following week I signed up for courses at the Nemunaitis Balloonist Club (Lith. Nemunaičio oreivių klubas). I had the honour of flying with the legendary pilot Arvydas Dirmeikis, who was also my instructor and taught me of dozens of piloting secrets. 

Afterwards everything seemed to go of its own accord. Together with Valerijus Machnorilovas, a hot air balloon pilot and airline captain, I took part in a range of competitions in Ukraine, Russia, Luxembourg, Poland and, of course, Lithuania. Valerijus has taught me the philosophy of the sky and flight, he taught me to be in harmony with nature, myself, and the element of air. 

In 2008, I got an airship licence and I still enjoy flying airships in various festivals in Lithuania and Poland. I am also a paraglider pilot. I take part in hot air balloon competitions, which I love for the excitement, the challenge, the danger. Nevertheless, I find quiet sightseeing flights with passengers, especially those flying for the first time, just as pleasurable as competitions. The flight is a unique experience – the excitement, the romance of when you go up to the vast sky, and when you look down, all the problems you had down there suddenly seem so unimportant!

 

Vytautas Rudžianskas
Pilot

My flying career started back in 1998. My very first flight was in Lithuania’s Mecca of hot air balloons, the Nemunaitis village. My future instructor Mr Gintaras Šurkus was the pilot, and a parish pastor and I were the passengers. This ascending to the heavens probably made ​​a much greater impression on me than on the man of God. Since then I barely leave the basket.
 
In 2005, I obtained a pilot’s licence. My three-digit flight record is not that impressive – I’ve flown for only 400 hours... However, I have to divide my time to fit in other types of aviation – I have an ultralight aircraft pilot’s licence, and I recently passed exams for a private pilot’s licence (PPL). On my free time I participate in flying competitions, where the most important things are speed, perseverance and the will to win. But a pleasure flight with passengers is also an adventure, and careful planning, safety and everyone’s good mood are the priorities our company sets for each flight.

 

Alfredas Reikertas
Pilot

Flying hot air balloons is my passion. I see myself as a superhero who leads a normal life by day and pilots balloons by evening.
 
I have admired aviation since I was a child. This was clear from my colouring-pen drawings on the bedroom walls. My mother would always get angry and wipe them off, but later she decided to just leave them there. 
 
As a grown-up I took a keen interest in hot-air balloons. I would watch them fly by and fantasize of flying over the roofs of Vilnius myself. Later I met some pilots and learned about the pilot school, and rushed headlong to join in. Like every hot air balloon pilot, I am not only a keen flyer, but a keen talker, too. I barely close my mouth when I’m with the passengers and other balloonists. I could tell stories about ballooning non-stop for days. 
 
For me, flying hot air balloons is a dream come true. On every flight, I try to share my overwhelming sense of freedom with all of the passengers. 
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