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 1,900 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!
 

Donatas Stakeliūnas

Pilot-instructor

Since I was a child I have been interested in two things only: airplanes and trains. Back in 1988 I joined the youth club of hot air balloon construction. Its' leade was the legendary Leonas Simniška, the very first one in Lithuania to construct an air balloon from polyethylene sheet. In spring of 1989 I got a chance to take a flight in an aircraft built by the club's leader. Same year I took a part in the first hot air balloon festival in Vilnius, where I and my pals demonstrated hot air balloon paper models of our own creation. A few months after not only I had my first flight in the ordinary hot air balloon, but also experienced the thrill of a flight in 'An-2' airplane. That very moment I knew the direction of my life. Love for the trains had to shift to the second position.
 
In 1990 together with a bunch of friends we managed to construct a life-size hot air balloon from the material we knew the best - polyethylene sheet. Next year we improved our skills and built even a better balloon with a hanging burner. The masterpiece of our engineering was represented to the public during the first hot air balloon championship in Lithuania. This memorable event gave me an opportunity to introduce myself to hot air balloon pilot Gintaras Šurkus and other members of Nemunaitis ballooning club. In 1995 I was holding my pilot's licence. I decided to wait no more and joined the club to take a part in any hot air ballooning festival or championship as a member of te ground crew.
 
It was just the beginning. Throughout 24 years of experience I was a hot air balloon pilot in US, Japan, Australia and most of European countries. In 2010 I wasso thristy for new adventures, so I started a career as a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Firstly, I signed up for 4-year-job in Cappadocia, Turkey, later - I spent 2 years over the savannah of Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. That led to the one-year contract in Germany and a few insanely hot winters in Dubai, UAE.
 
Five years ago I was issued an airplane pilot licence and kept on studying at the school for pilots in Vilnius. Here, I hope, I will finally receive a licence to operate commercial flights. Then..maybe I could start anew as a locomotive motorman.
 

Laurynas Komža

Pilot-instructor

Even in my earliest memories I have been either in a hot air balloon or around them. My first hot air balloon ride was when I was almost two or three years old, I do not remember precisely. I am a son of Robertas Komža - one of the most professional Lithuanian hot air balloon pilots - so these aircrafts are completely natural to me. It is like the air - self-explanatory - we breathe in without thinking or asking why, what for. Since the childhood I was surrounded by the hot air balloons: helping (or intefering) the pilots, learning to navigate, understanding the mechanism of wind and getting used to wake up before the sunrise.

I got my pilot licence when I was 16. At that time I was one of the youngest pilots in the whole Europe. I knew how to fly a hot air balloon, but had no right to drive a car. Throughout more than 15 years of experience I had a chance to fly in the most European countries, USA, Mexico and even over the Alps. From 2011 I have become an active participant of hot air balloon competitions and championships both in Europe and all around the globe. 
 
In 2016 me and my father were the first participants from Lithuania in 'Gordon Bennett Cup' - world's oldest gas balloon race. Together we broke Lithuanian aviation records and reached 19 hours and 22 min in flight duration and 427,2 km in flight distance categories. Back in 2016 I received the qualification of a pilot-instructor, in two years I was issued a licence as a service technician. Mostly I am inspired by the professionals of a particular field, so the ability to iprove my skills, bings me happiness. I know that I will never get bored of aeronautics.  Why? Because each and every flight is different. As a pilot, I take off and I have no clue at first, where are we going to land. This is still the purest form of magic to me. 
 
 

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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