CEO & Chief Pilot
Originally doing every job in the Company himself (marketing, sales, reservations, flying, repairs, maintenance, cooking, and managing the finances) this “jack of all trades” found it hard to admit that there were others who could do the various aspects of the job even better than he.
As the company grew he was amazed at his good fortune to find that he had recruited and built an amazing team of great people (one of whom was his wife Mary) who could meet the specialist demands of continual growth; growth which was not necessarily in turnover, but more in stature. The objective was never to be big, but rather to “focus on more satisfying business goals” such as being “the best at what we do” by “creating a stimulating place to work”, “providing perfect customer service” and “making important contributions to our community”. The problem now, he says, is that nearly everyone can do their jobs better than he!
Bill will admit to experience as an ocean yachtsman, singer, hotelier, portrait photographer, advertising executive, and a balloon pilot examiner. He has served on committees of Southern African Tourism and Safari Association, The Magalies Meander, the Balloon and Airship Federation of South Africa, and as the National President of Skal International (a worldwide body of travel and tourism management professionals). He is also a Top 100 Member of Travelbags. He firmly believes that attention to service excellence and a commitment to care for ones community will build a better nation, especially through education, and was a recognised platinum benefactor of the Tourism Education Trust.
Currently Bill serves on the National Steering Committee for Self Regulation and Accreditation in the South African Adventure Tourism Industry as Chairman of the International Best Practice Sub Committee (an initiative driven by the Ministry of Tourism, the National Department of Tourism and the Southern African Tourism Services Association in conjunction with SA Tourism and other major industry players).
He also serves the tourism community on the National Executive Council of SATSA as Treasurer, and as a committee member as PR and Membership Secretary for the local Gauteng Chapter.
It is not good enough, he says, to be first, if the gap between you and the rest of the pack is too small to perceive, unless of course you have lapped them already! But more importantly it is not who you leave behind, but what you leave behind that really counts.
Director: Started (officially) 1990
Behind every successful man is a great woman, but Mary is not only behind Bill but at his side and often way out in front.
A real mover and shaker, affectionately known as “Sarge” if something needs to be done, Mary is “onto it” (and so will everyone else be) until it is completed.
Mary is “everywhere”. Not quite as diplomatic as Bill, she is very direct and doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone, NO ONE, and that is another good reason why things work around here.
She is also a member of Travel Bags (International Association of Women’s Travel) and accompanies Bill to SATSA and Skal meetings locally and worldwide. She loves to travel (most times with Bill) but sometimes is lucky enough to get away on her own to visit family in UK and Australia.
Marketing Director – Started (officially) 1998
Daughter of Bill and Mary she started as a toddler “helping mummy and daddy” but became fully involved after completing her studies.
She qualified in the dramatic arts as a Licentiate in drama through Trinity College of London as well as singing and dancing through the Royal College of London.
In the tourism industry she has contributed with her services as Vice President of Travelbags for a number of years.
Her travels have taken her to just about every country in North and South America as well as UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Australia, Thailand, Seychelles, Swaziland, Singapore, Dubai, Bermuda and most of South Africa.
She is currently pursuing her passion of being a professional speaker in her “spare time” so keeps busy with various MC-ing gigs as well as sharing her passion on Customer Service
She shares a great family with her husband Leonard and 4 girls. She dances, is an avid Toastmaster and is studying graphology and HR Management. She loves gym and swimming!
General Manager, Operations – Started April 2010
Having held positions as General Manager of a number of leading five star hotels in Gauteng he is fully aware of the demands of modern day hospitality. He is a forthright individual and is the calibre of person who creates initiative, sets standards and dutifully leads the way with a “Hands On” approach.
Over the years, he has been a very active member of FEDHASA, and was the Chairman of NHASA (National
Hotel Association of South Africa), prior to which he was a committee member for a number of years.
He was a committee member and Vice Chairman of SATSA (Southern African Tourism Services Association) and during this time, initiated and spearheaded the “Youth for Tourism” Project for previously disadvantaged tourism students and received an award for his contribution to the SA Tourism industry.
He has been a member of GIT (Gentlemen in Travel) and is a Top 100 Member of TRAVELBAGS. He also served on the board of SAACI (South African Association of Conference Industries).
Apart from his work commitments, Dave enjoys rugby (having played Provincial Rugby many years ago and is a fanatical Sharks supporter) and was a keen cricketer, playing for Natal Midlands. He is a Master Diver, and enjoys various boating activities. He is a keen golfer and plays when time permits.
Other outdoor activities include camping, motorcycling and fishing.
Dave has a passion for flying having started his PPL while still living in Margate, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Unfortunately, moving to Jhb in 1995, the Hotel industry did not allow him to finish this off. However, having joined Bill Harrops “Original” Balloon Safaris, Dave will endeavour to acquire his Balloon Pilots licence.
Financial Manager – Started May 2015
Having graduated from Bolland College in Stellenbosch after specialising in Cost and Management accounting, Dennis relocated from “beautiful Cape Town” to Johannesburg in 2012.
Dennis joined the Bill Harrop’s team in May 2015 and although one of the quieter members of our team he is well loved by everyone! (Editors note – perhaps that’s cos he pays us!)
He has travelled extensively through South Africa and has visited Namibia. On his bucket list is his desire to travel overseas!
When he’s not “punching numbers” he enjoys going out to different restaurants, loves the theatre, entertaining friends at home, cooking and wine tasting.
Reservation Consultant – Started November 2008
Kathy left Vaal Technicon with her National Diploma in Public Relations and entered the hospitality industry in 1990, working at the Indaba Hotel as Assistant Front Office Manager as well as spending 4 years in Banqueting and Conventions, before moving to the Balalaika Protea Hotel. She later enjoyed time as Reservations Manager at Makalali Private Game Reserve before joining Conservation Corporation Africa as a Reservations Consultant for East Africa.
The main reason she works in the travel industry is because she simply loves travel, and has vacationed in Israel, Cyprus, Greece, UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland and East Africa.
At home she is the ultimate Children’s Hockey Mum, Netball Mum and Athletics Mum (yup she has 2 kids) but for real relaxation she makes Mosaics and when she has the chance, reading autobiographies. Her husband, Fourie, is also a jolly good fellow and occasionally helps us out with crewing on busy weekends as he enjoys the shift in paradigm from his “proper job” with Toyota.
Marketing Assistant – Started October 2014
Having completed her studies at The Travel Learning Centre in 2014 Nancy applied for the job of junior marketing assistant and was placed right away!
With a passion for Travel and Tourism, teamed with her vibrant and fun personality she was the perfect fit for the position!
Nancy has travelled locally to Cape Town Limpopo, Durban, Port Elizabeth and North West – she has dreams of travelling further abroad in the next few years as well!
Apart from loving interacting with people, Nancy enjoys reading, travelling and listening to music!
PA to Bill Harrop – Started 1st of May 2015
Having studied accounting (many years ago!) she was the perfect fit with her role encompassing figures, stats as well as assisting in accounting on a day to day basis.
2 boys and a girl have kept her busy for most of her life and now her favourite destinations are the UK and
Australia where she visits her children who have immigrated and 3 grandchildren.
When she’s not travelling and working she relaxes and loves scrapbooking. Although humble about her creativity – she is absolutely amazing and has everyone enthralled with the pages she puts together!
Pilot – Started September 2012
Born in Australia, Melbourne Brad is our “import”! He testifies that it is his South African born partner, Claire, who really managed to do the convincing – either way – we’re delighted!
He was initially involved in tourism in Australia where he ran outback Safaris. He decided to spread his wings, he packed his bags and back packed around the world. Landing on UK shores he started working as retrieve crew for a balloon operator where he fell in love with flying. He figured that by getting his licence he was able to work, travel, make money and have fun!
He has flown hot air balloons in Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, England, Italy, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, France and India. He ran his own hot air ballooning operation in Scotland but eventually got tired of snow and cold and eventually in September 2012 decided that South Africa was “next on his list”!
With over 1300 Hours of commercial flying Brad has also done various Factory Maintenance Courses through Lindstrand and Cameron.
He has 3 grown up children who are spread between Australia and England.
If Brad is not flying you are likely to find him camping, preparing to camp or fixing something somewhere! In his spare time he likes to relax and watch TV.
Pilot – Started February 2016
Nationality – British
Garry started learning to fly hot air balloons in 1992, as part of a balloon retrieve crew with the occasional training flight as payment. Garry finally got his PPL Balloon licence in 1995, following 3 frustrating years of typical British weather, by joining Nig’s Pertwee at the Anglo Alpine Balloon school in Bavaria, Germany.
The passion for ballooning followed a honeymoon flight over the Masai Mara in Kenya in 1990, after which, both Garry and his new wife, Maureen, started to learn to fly with a syndicate balloon that they invested in on their return home from their honeymoon. A family ensued and Maureen decided 1 pilot in the house was sufficient, from then on ballooning became a family affair, with 4 children (2 from a previous marriage), endless weekends were enjoyed flying from balloon fiesta’s and competition flying.
Garry obtained his CPL Balloon licence in 2000 and has flown hot air balloons mostly in Europe in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria. He has over 800 hours commercial flying and is now living the dream of flying in Africa.
In his spare time, he is a fire safety consultant, having worked for fire service in London for 30 years in his previous job.
To relax he likes to play golf, generally keep fit by going to the gym, cycling and ski-ing (snow permitting).
The balloonist’s prayer: (often recited after a balloon flight) The winds have welcomed you with softness.
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well that God joined you in laughter and set you gently back again into the loving arms of mother earth.
Pilot – Operations Assistant – Started April 2016
In 1990 whilst on his backpacking adventure in Europe, Harmen chose a book from his uncles bookshelf simply entitled “Seize the reckless wind”. This sparked an interest in airships and “lighter than air flight” It DID take a few years, but eventually in 2004 he signed up to learn to fly hot air balloons and 2005 he qualified as a pilot and then as an instructor in the years that followed.
Every year (except for one) Harmen has participated in the SA National Balloon Championships and in 2012 was invited fly in the Albuquerque Balloon Festival – a highlight of his flying career!
Pilot – Pilot – started November 2016
Recently arrived from the UK to enjoy the pleasures of working and living in Africa, Martin has settled into the company quickly. In fact, he says, ‘it is more like being adopted by a new family-everyone is so friendly and supportive’.
With over twenty years commercial balloon flying experience and 2000 hours, Martin is a very experienced pilot. He has flown all over the world and particularly enjoys helping others in their journey as pilots through his role as a UK Civil Aviation Authority Examiner. Safety is his primary focus in all flying activity.
A true adventurer, Martin spends his time when not flying by leading expeditions and training all over the world as a Summer and Winter Mountain Leader, climber, sailor, diver and most lately paddleboard instructor.
Most of all, Martin is looking forward to sharing the amazing sights and sounds that only Africa can provide, with his two daughters.
Pilot – Started December 2017
Shane is our recent addition from the United States. He’s new to us but a longtime pilot with just under 4,000 hours, first getting involved in the sport in 1989 and having run his own ballooning business for the last 25 years. He has considerable experience flying competition, corporate marketing/advertising, special shapes, experimental, and gas balloons. He has flown in 44 of the 50 U.S. states, in much of Canada, Mexico, and Europe, as well as in Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Dubai, and India. He’s flown one man solo “cloudhopper” balloons of only 31,000 cubic feet to large ride balloons of 415,000 cubic feet, and all sizes in between. He has over 600 hours in gas balloons, including winning the U.S. National Championship in a 1996 flight from St. Louis, Missouri to the Atlantic Ocean. An epic 1999 flight from Denver, Colorado to Vermont saw him flying 1,657 miles (2,667 kilometers) in 65 1/2 hours. And in 2002, he represented the United States in the prestigious Coupé Aeronautique Gordon Bennett in Châtellerault, France. Shane has also dropped more skydivers from a balloon than any other balloonist in the world, an idea that raises an eyebrow of anyone who hears that fact. To date, he’s dropped over 8,250 skydivers from a balloon. The last 3 years he’s been flying the beautiful wine country of Napa, California, having finally decided that working for someone else as pilot is more enjoyable than wearing all the hats of running his own company. May through November in Napa, then 3 months flying with us in South Africa allows him to log a lot of flying time in two of the best ballooning spots in the world.
Though very experienced, Shane still has lofty goals before the aches and pains of old age slow him down. He longs to do considerably more gas ballooning, as that’s his real passion. There’s still a large part of the world he’s yet to fly and Russia, Belarus, Madagascar, and as yet unvisited South America top his list. His longtime girlfriend, Lisa, has traveled the world with him and as long as she’ll be by his side, there are no plans to let moss grow under his (their) feet. A trip to Iceland last summer had them scoping out likely sites to do balloon flights on a return visit. Travel usually involves a balloon but it’s a pretty great way to see the world!
Senior Balloon Crewman – Started September 1993
After leaving school Eric ‘s first job was selling and auctioning motor cars in Zimbabwe, and he did his fair share of casual work before his quest for a “proper job” brought him to our gate.
This man’s honest big smile, strong character and application of his great determination to progress has continually delivered well deserved results. Maybe the motivation to learn came from his mother, a teacher? But because of the great example he continually upheld, he was selected as one of two people from our middle management team to travel to Florida USA to study and be awarded the renowned Walt Disney Customer Service Course Diploma. He is also training to be a balloon pilot.
Eric ‘s travels have taken him to the USA, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, and of course Zimbabwe.
When he is not following his passion for ballooning he relaxes with books, or goes to the movies. To keep fit and strong he gyms nearly every day, and plays Soccer with friends. Orlando Pirates is his favourite local team, and on the international front he supports Barcelona and Manchester United.
Junior Chef de Partie – Started September 2010
After graduating from high school she worked as a doctor’s receptionist and, during that time, met and married
George and started their family of 4 children.
Now her very realistic and achievable goal is to study to become a great cook. In her spare time she buys, fixes-up and sells clothes; a lucrative hobby.
For relaxation Merjury reads Christian novels and enjoys watching E-TV.
Waiter and Junior Chef de Partie – Started September 2010
George is one of those men who learns fast and will do well for himself. Show George how to do something and it will be done, always on time, always done right. Bright and perky, he is always complimented by guests for his top class service and attention to detail.
Housekeeper – Started May 1983
Everybody’s favourite housekeeper, Liz always keeps our offices clean and tidy, and is everyone’s favourite when it’s time for tea. She reads womens magazines and conjures up some amazing “surprise” meals from what she gleans from the cookery sections. Never complaining, she is always there to help.
When she is not working she LOVES shopping for her wardrobe of very fashionable clothes. She also enjoys TV movies and baby-sitting her beautiful granddaughter. A regular churchgoer she attends meeting just about every Sunday. Elizabeth has a home in Hammanskraal where she returns for frequent visits and holidays where she relaxes with family and friends.
Senior Gardener – Started 1973 (with the Harrop family)
America has been with the Harrop family longer than any other staff member, maintaining the gardens of home and business as well as advising and training colleagues at the Skeerpoort operations base.
A self starter, highly motivated, reliable, diligent and gentle man with the “greenest fingers” in town, is a lay preacher and maybe it is with these qualifications and connections “above” that the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful actually translates into the culmination of his work.
Maintenance supervisor and Crew Leader – Started January 2007
Daniel was initially employed on a temporary basis, his eager, friendly and “willing to please” attitude secured him a full time position in January 2007.
Working closely with our General Manager, Dave Atherstone, Daniel has become the “go to guy” – never a moan or complaint about anything! All of his colleagues refer to him as “the guy who will help anyone with anything at any time – a great guy!”