Category: Bumble

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 5th July 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Having been working my way through the list of “promised flights” has meant that it’s been over a year since I last flew with Woody and considering that we used to do so much flying together in Lambert Smith Hampton 3 (G-CDYL) that is an amazing fact! Also, with the wind so predominantly coming from the North and/or West I hadn’t launched from Warborough Green since Bumble first took the skies on its maiden flight either! I actually find that the enjoyment of flying can get a bit stale if you’re only ever launching from the same few fields, flying over the same few miles and landing in the same few spots and so, with the wind coming from the East and Woody around and wanting to fly, the plan was hatched to return to Warborough and get back in the air together.

The reason that I fly from Warborough (or Streatley) when the wind is coming from the East is that it allows me to fly away from the controlled Airspace at RAF Benson, taking any pressure that would bring to flying out of the equation. Balloonists, where possible, will try to avoid flying on wind directions that will take them towards controlled airspace, especially if you’ll be reaching it around the time you are looking to land, and so, it was no surprise that with almost perfect flying conditions two other balloons that decided to join Woody and myself at Warborough.

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Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 13th June 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I’m sure I’ve written before about how I don’t really like to promise my friends balloon flights. It’s not that I’m anti-social and don’t want to fly with other people, it’s just that I hate saying to people “of course you can have a flight” and then letting days, weeks, months even, go by with no sign of actually fulfilling that promise. It makes me feel empty and almost dishonest, and so, whilst I am happy to fly my friends, and there is an option invitation to them all that if they ever want a balloon flight to just let me know, I try to not to physically say “yep, lets do this” and instead prefer to just ring people up when the weather looks good and say “fancy a flight…?”.

Tonight I was flying with two friends – Tom Reddy and Matthew Rogers – who fall dichotomously onto the two branches of my passenger philosophy. Tom was very much a last-minute phone call, offering him the final free space in the basket, whilst Matthew, on the other hand, had been patiently waiting for me to actually do some flying having been promised a flight a long time ago.

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FLIGHT REPORT: G-CJXD ~ 23rd April 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloonists usually arrange the use of a handful of local launch sites from which they can fly, allowing them to plan flights that avoid any problematic areas – like controlled airspace or dense pastoral farming – to enjoy the relaxed time in the air. I have 3 regular launch sites – in Streatley, Hungerford and Abingdon – which I use, but from time to time, it can be nice to head somewhere different, launch from a new location and just freshen things up.

The local ballooning region – the 3-4-40 – arranged a flyout from the Rye Farm Water Meadows in Abingdon to coincide with St. George’s Day. Granted,  as new locations go, it wasn’t very far away from The Dog House, which is my usually Abingdon based starting point, but with the weather promising blue skies and light winds, this promised the opportunity to fly alongside more balloons than normal and, starting that little bit further East than normal, whilst still flying over land I knew well, somehow change the perspective on it. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 21st April 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloons work by trapping a bubble of hot air inside the fabric envelope. In very simple terms, the larger the bubble the more weight you can then carry; whilst the hotter the bubble (compared to the external air temperature) the faster the balloon will climb. This means that once you’ve sewn the balloon envelope together, and thus fixed the ultimate size of the bubble you can trap, the amount of weight you can carry becomes essentially fixed as well.

Balloons, for a number of reasons, have been getting ever heavier. The first Lambert Smith Hampton balloon – G-LSHI – weighed 90kg, whilst 18 years later, the third balloon – G-CDYL – weighed 113kg, an increase of 23kg even though the balloons were technically the same size! This has lead, over the last few years, to a real drive to decrease the weight of the kit and whilst developments in the area of tradition baskets and burners still lags behind, huge strides have been made regarding envelopes, and especially the base weight of the fabrics used. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 19th April 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I’ve written before about how, as the holder of a commercial pilot’s licence, I have to undertake a competency flight test with an examiner if I wish to earn money from flying. Over the last few years, however, my battle with anorexia has meant that I haven’t flown much, and what little flying I have done, has been entirely private and purely for fun. In fact, I haven’t undertaken a paid commercial flying job since I took the Churchill Dog balloon for a walk in 2012 to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and with anorexia still popping in and out of my life as it chooses, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. I was, however, forced into needing a flight test. The reason? I’d moved house!

In the UK, a commercial pilot’s licence can have restrictions and limitations placed upon it, based on the type of flying you wish to do and the size of balloon you wish to fly. I hold an ‘Unrestricted Commercial Licence – Rated for Group A Balloons’ which means that, with the aforementioned flight test, I can fly “fare paying passengers” in a balloon up to 105,000 cubic feet (essentially taking 4 passengers at a time). As I’ve only been flying privately, however, I don’t require the flight test. I can just jump in a balloon and fly. Read more

G-CJXD: Exclusive Ballooning & DatumRPO Cross Channel Flight

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air ballooning doesn’t really have a sacred list of places to fly, meets to attend or flights you must make. Some claim you have to experience flying in the snowy mountains or the packed skies of Albuquerque before you can truly extinguish your burner, but I’ve never been driven by a desire to tick every box and fly every flight purely so I can say “I’ve done it all”. I grew up surrounded by the flying of my father and so, the few high-profile flights I long to make are the few high-profile flights he made. I’m not interested in seeing it all or proving I’m the best, I just want to follow in his footsteps and say I shared his experiences.

My strongest memory of the high-profile flying he did was when he flew across the English Channel in 1991. Even though I was only 8 years old at the time I can remember the freezing cold morning and the rough stone walls of Dover Castle, stood with my family while the pilots were being briefed. I can see the balloon taking to the sky, as normally as any other flight. I remember standing on the dock, the balloons just an outbreak of dots, already over the water, as we waited to board the ferry. And I remember sitting in the car, as we returned across France, soaking in the emotions of everyone else, having picked up my Dad after he landed. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 2nd April 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

When my family ran a small ‘rides’ company, offering flights to members of the public in Rainbow Blue – the 4-person balloon that was the first to carry the family colour scheme, we used to say there were two types of passenger. The first would book their flight long before they wished to fly, only to be delayed from taking to the skies for months on end as attempt after attempt was curtailed by wind, rain and rubbish weather. The second would ring up at the last-minute, wishing to step almost straight into the basket, and usually, the weather would oblige. It never seemed fair that the last-minute chancers were somehow always luckier with the weather than those who had waited patiently.

Please don’t think, however, that I’m suggesting either type of passenger has more worth than the other, or that one was in some way nicer. It was just that, noticeably, the last minute “I don’t suppose…” seemed to always get into the air first. I’d even found it when I flew some school friends. Chris Aram had rung up the day before and was flying the next morning. Jo Tucker arranged to fly as a birthday present, weeks in advance, and ended up waiting months to fly, long after blowing out the candles. Read more

Flight Reports: Royal County Of Berkshire Show 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Every year the Royal County of Berkshire Show (Newbury Show to the locals) seems to come around quicker and quicker – insert some quip about the passage of time with age here – and each year I seem to arrive on the launch site, crossing my fingers, that the weather will be kind. That we can put on a worthy display for the attending public. Each year, in the days before the show you can guarantee the weather forecast will promise a full weekend of flying. Wall to wall sunshine teasing all four flying slots, only to disappear under a sea of cloud, wind and, more often than not, rain when the weekend finally arrives.

This year was no different. The week leading up to the show proclaimed two days of glorious blue skies and light winds. A high-pressure system apparently pushing towards the UK ready to bring settled conditions, however, by the time Saturday came, and reality dawned, the truth was just another cold, grey weekend, with rain on the way.  Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 31st July 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I try not to promise people balloon flights. It’s not because I’m antisocial and don’t wish to fly them but simply because I don’t want to let anybody down. I only fly a dozen or so times a year privately, and whilst I’m happy, and really enjoy, sharing the experience with friends I just hate the knowledge that a promise now may take months, or even years, to come to fruition. Friendships can be solely tested when your word appears to be nothing but empty.

So, I was acutely aware that it was now getting well over 18 months since a very long-standing friend had swapped me a flight in his plane for a flight in my balloon. And while he was being completely understanding as to the reasons why I hadn’t kept my side of the bargain, the weight of knowing he’d been waiting that long was starting to sit far too heavily on my shoulders. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 24th July 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

A period of ill health, the issues that delayed Bumble from taking to the skies for over a year and qualifying as a cricket umpire reigniting his passion for leather on willow, has seen my father hardly fly over the last couple of years. He’s been happily coming out to crew for me when I’ve been flying cloudhoppers but getting into the air himself – whether as pilot or passenger – has been severely limited. In fact, until he’d flown with me the previous day, it had been over two-and-a-half years since he’d last been in the sky!

It was obvious the previous morning had unlocked all the memories and emotions that draw him to flying. As with withdrawal from anything, once the initial pangs and cravings pass, the natural pull becomes so dulled that eventually the original source is forgotten; and I think that had happened with my Father. Life had moved on, the gap caused by a lack of flying naturally filled with other things. But just like addiction, all it takes is that first sip, that first inhale, and the flood gates reopen. Flying had flooded through him again the previous morning and when I offered him the chance to come flying again he didn’t need to be asked twice! Read more