|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (March 2010)|
|Key people||Don Cameron|
|Website||Cameron Balloons Ltd.|
Cameron Balloons is a company established in 1971 in Bristol, England by Don Cameron to manufacture hot air balloons. Cameron had previously, with others, constructed ten hot air balloons under the name Omega. Production was in the basement of his house, moving in 1972 to an old church in the city. In 1983 Cameron Balloons moved into its current premises in the former Robinsons paper bag/printing factory (built in 1887 in the Bedminster area of the city). In 1989 the company received the Queen's Award for Export.
Output has grown to around 500 balloons per year. As of December 2007[update], Cameron Balloons accounted for 1,073 of the 1,553 hot air balloons registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority. Cameron Balloons is also famous for its special shapes, the first being Robertson's Golly, constructed in 1975. Most special shapes are made for commercial advertising, but some have been bought privately. Notable amongst these private buyers is the late Malcolm Forbes of Forbes magazine, who commissioned a number of special shapes, including Harley-Davidson motorbike, Sphinx, bust of Beethoven, French Chateau, Pagoda and Minaret.
The Bedminster factory occupies three floors. Most factory space (first and second floors) is devoted to laying out the hundreds of yards of fabric which is sewn together by machinists. If the detail on the balloon is intricate, to save cost and weight, the designs may be sprayed or painted on instead.
The company also makes airships, helium balloons and static inflatables. It has been involved in record breaking balloon flight attempts including trans-Atlantic, altitude and distance records.
Expansion via acquisitions
During the 1990s, Cameron strengthened its position, via a string of acquisitions. First, Cameron acquired its main British competitor Thunder & Colt Balloons. Then, it bought the smaller Sky Balloons, which had been formed by former Thunder & Colt employees after the company's sale. Finally, Cameron acquired two-thirds ownership of Lindstrand Balloons, which had been formed by Per Lindstrand after he left Thunder & Colt in the early 1990s. Cameron bought the majority stake in Lindstrand Balloons from Rory McCarthy, a British industrialist associated with Richard Branson, who had invested in the company to support Branson's series of record-setting balloon flights.
Cameron has integrated the Thunder & Colt product range, notably the AS-series hot air airships, into its own catalogue, while Sky's products have been discontinued. Lindstrand Balloons continues to operate as an independent company with separate management and its own designs and products.