Meet the Team

DAMIEN HAYS - Chief Pilot & Director

Damien has been flying since 1990.  Damien grew up in the Avon Valley, home to ballooning in Western Australia, and has been involved with the sport since an early age.  Damien has flown commercially in the Hunter Valley & Camden in New South Wales, the Yarra Valley and at Hanging Rock in Victoria, Cairns in Queensland, the Meander Valley in Tasmania and of course home in the Avon, and holds endorsements to fly balloons up to 400,000 cubic foot in capacity, Australia’s largest class of balloon.  He also holds Instructors’ ratings for both Commercial and Private training and has logged around 2000 hours flying balloons. No pilot in Australia has more experience flying balloons over the Avon Valley than Damien.

GREN PUTLAND - Senior Pilot

Gren has been flying balloons since 1977 and is one of the foundation members of the Western Australian Balloon & Airship Club. He is an Authorised Test Officer approved by Civil Aviation Safery Authority (Australia) as well as a Commercial Examiner and Instructor (Balloons).  His achievements in hot air ballooning include representing Australia at two World Championships, placing 8th in 1983, an Australian altitude record set in 1980, and firsts such as flying from Rottnest Island to the Mainland as well as flying over the Stirling Ranges in the South of Western Australia. Gren established Windward Balloon Adventures in the early 1980’s and after selling the business to Damien in 1998 he still likes to maintain a close involvement.  With over 30 years experience of flying hot air balloons in the Avon Valley he is a great asset to Windward.

DONNA TASKER - Pilot

Donna has been flying balloons since 2007. Donna had her first balloon flight when she was living in Canberra and decided then she wanted to learn to fly.  A couple of years later she flew as a passenger with Windward and after that she was determined to become a pilot of these magical aircraft!
Since then Donna has flown in places such as Canberra, Canowindra, Putrajaya in Malaysia, Hamilton in NZ and has recently returned from Myanmar where she was working the summer for Oriental Ballooning flying passengers around the spectacular temples of Bagan. Donna also holds her Private Instructors rating and is a fixed wing pilot as well.

LEON WACHOWSKI - Head of Ground Operations

Leon has been working for Windward for over 9 years and now is responsible for co-ordinating, supervising and training our team of ground support specialists.  Leon is also a fledgling balloon pilot holding his student pilots certificate and having done a few hours of training towards attaining his private pilots certificate.

HEATHER MEIKLEM - Customer Services Manager

Heather joined us in 2004 and has become an integral part of our bookings office team.  When she is not managing our busy bookings office she is bringing up two teenagers as well as assisting with various community organisations around town. Heather is dedicated to making sure our customers’ booking needs are met and their questions are answered, and her passion for her job is most evident to all of our customers who she speaks with.  She is a great inspiration to all at Windward!

Belinda Clements - Customer Services Officer

Belinda started working with us during 2007 and then took a little while off to start a family before returning to our team! She hold’s a Bachelor of Arts in Office Management and has worked in a variety of administrative roles before she joined us.  Belinda supports Heather in our busy bookings office and with a husband and a father who both fly balloons she knows how to answer all of our customers questions!

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