Department of Tourism (DOT) and Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) organizers on Tuesday said the public is about to witness an even grander PIHABF this year with the introduction of AeroSuperBatics Wingwalker in their “A Weekend of Everything that Flies” lineup.

The AeroSuperBatics WingWalkers, based in the United Kingdom, is the only aerobatic formation wingwalking team in the world.

According to Captain Joy Roa, PIHABF organizer, their visit to the Philippines is a first of its kind.

AeroSuperBatics is known for its death-defying acrobatic maneuvers and handstands while strapped to the top wings of the team’s Boeing Stearman biplanes.

“Wingwalkers is the first time in the Philippines, we also have our skydivers to conduct exhibitions for four times this year, compared to three last year,” he said. “Hindi lang airplane (not just airplanes), everything that flies, (you’ll) see here.”

Roa said that the additional efforts to make this year’s event extra special was to actually achieve a good aviation industry in the future.

“In the future it will be a good industry for the whole country and the only way to inspire the children and people in school is to see things flying and eventually we will have a good aviation industry for the country,” he said.

Next year, Teo said more foreign tourists were expected to come in the annual event as they intensified promotions in Asian countries.

In 2017, the department recorded about 130,000 foreign and domestic visitors for the event alone.

This year, DOT targets to increase the figures by 200,000.

“We sponsored it. Probably next year we will be hosting it. For next year, we will allocate a bigger budget for it,” she said.

The event which starts 5 a.m. will run from February 8 to 11. According to Roa, the best time to catch the shows are in the mornings.

Eyed for expansion

The sports aviation event, tagged as the longest-running in Asia, is also eyed for expansion in Visayas and Mindanao.

“I talked to Captain Roa, I said please consider other places in the Philippines para hindi lang naman Clark (lang),” Teo told reporters in an ambush interview at the OMNI Aviation Field in Pampanga.

“I was thinking Davao could be next and Laoag then Iloilo. I-ikot naman natin yung hot air balloon para everyone can see.”

Roa said the proposal was “easy” to achieve, and was actually possible. (PNA)