G-OCGD Test Inflation

19th September 2017 – Ashton Court, Bristol

I sold my original hopper G-CEGG when I purchased G-ISOB for exactly the same reason I had sold Tutti Frutti (G-BYIY) when I purchased Bumble (G-CJXD), you can only fly one balloon at a time, and the new envelope was to be larger and lighter than the old one – and also lacked the supporting artwork to help raise awareness of a charity so close to my heart. Unfortunately, though, the design of G-ISOB whilst stunning (the contrast of the blue and pink against a pristine white background is something you cannot truly appreciate until you see it in real life) sadly, my mind struggles with just how much white fabric is in the balloon. The few flights I’d made I’d always been flying with a nagging thought that any landing site would need to be lush grass and not the rough plough of a farmers field, whilst the initial “launch” of the balloon in Norwich had seen numerous tarpaulins employed to keep the balloon clean during inflation and deflation!

I had also found the balloon mentally draining to fly. My original cloudhopper held 25,000 cubic feet of air, whilst Beat held 31,000. This increase had been purely driven by the of the availability of sizes from the manufacturer. Cameron Balloons, when we ordered Beat, didn’t offer anything smaller and so my hand had been essentially forced to buy a balloon with more lift than I needed. This unwarranted additional lift caused a potential issue of causing the balloon to feel a bit floppy when flying, as if it was really in need of an extra 20kg sitting in the chair to make it fly as designed. Apparently, you can actually go “too light” in ballooning!

Everything was adding together to leave me really struggling to know what to do for the best. I didn’t want to actively fly Beat anymore (and in fact had put it up for sale) but I didn’t know how to replace it. None of the manufacturers offered a smaller volumed balloon, and whilst I still had the Choc Dips Cloudhopper (G-DIPZ) it is just too small to be a regularly flown balloon – it needs the dramatically cool conditions of a winters morning, not the late summer sun of a warm evening, to have enough lift to carry me.

Manufacturer Design Visual

I spoke to Lindstrand Technologies, who would build me a one-off 25,000 cubic foot balloon, but being a one-off it would require new regulatory approval and make it financially unviable whilst Ultramagic, who made Bumble (G-CJXD), were reluctant to build anything smaller than a 31,000 due to a lack of market need. Cameron Balloons, however, had taken an opposite view, believing that the market did want a smaller size and in serendipitous timing launched a smaller 26,000 cubic foot version of the 12-gore shaped balloon that Beat is. And not only that, but the manufacturer of the lightweight fabric used in Beat’s construction also launched a Navy Blue shade allowing my tradition house colours of Navy, Royal and Sky Blue to be possible – it seemed that a small ray of sunshine was poking through an overcast sky.

Owning Beat I’d seen that there was one area of production where a further weight saving could be made – the storage bag. Even though Beat is very light for its size, the bag that is used to store the balloon employs a lot of recycled parts from that used on bigger balloons, making it heavy. Speaking to Camerons about my desire to cut the weight out of the bag, they agreed savings could be made. The first port of call was to source a lighter fabric, traditionally bags are made of 1000 dernier Cordura but a lighter 50 dernier version is available and sourced. Secondly, the bag has a drawstring rope running around the top which traditionally is 10mm in diameter, we cut this down to a 3mm rope, the overall effect was to produce a bag than in comparison to standard, is far lighter, we’re just waiting to see how well it holds up to a fast drag landing.

The final decision to make was to the registration of the balloon. The “House Colours” have always carried X-Ray Delta in their registrations (G-CCXD and G-CJXD) and so, part of me wanting to continue the pattern. Registrations are relisted in sequence groups from which they are allocated on a “first come first served” basis. Sadly though, speaking to the Civil Aviation Authority, they had issued that current sequence’s XD registration and so, to start/continue the XD tradition I’d have to pay an additional fee and pick something outside the sequence. I thought long and hard about the registration G-XDCD but, ultimately decided, as that places in the XD in the wrong “spot” as it were I would make the balloon personal by forgoing the XD tradition and instead, employ the British aviation custom of starting with an O to form GO, followed by my initials!

I suppose, I should finish this by explaining the name – Cornflakes – but I can’t. It was simply Christened whilst in construction for no rhyme or reason – it just seemed to fit!

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