Category: Hot Air Ballooning

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 26th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

As mentioned in the report of my previous flight, Woody Woodward used to fly the Variety Club hot air balloon. Sadly, when it reached the end of it’s flying life, Woody wasn’t in a position to purchase another balloon leaving him grounded. UK law dictates that to act as a pilot in command you are required to complete annual currency – currently 5 flights in 13 months for a private pilot – and without a balloon to fly, Woody risks missing this requirement and lapsing his licence. The result is that I have always tried to ensure that he can get into the sky from time to time in my balloon to make sure this doesn’t happen.

This meant that less than three weeks since Bumble had taken off on its maiden voyage, and for the third time in four flights, I was once again airborne with Woody. Unlike our previous flight, however, where I’d taken off and Woody hand landed, this time Woody was responsible for parting us from the ground and I’d be required to safely reattach us later! Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 15th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I’m sure I should open this with some witty statement about how flying slots are like buses – joking how you wait for one and 3 come along at once – but really, I think it’s more a case that however fast the clouds may scud across the sky on occasions, the weather is fundamentally a slow-moving thing.

I also don’t know why I constantly try to describe the way you can steer a balloon by using the adage “right with height”. Attempting to explain how the winds apparently veer clockwise with altitude in the northern hemisphere, because that never seems to hold true anymore either! Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 14th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

With the nightmare, and stupidity, of something as basic as paperwork having kept me from sharing the sky with friends for so long it was obvious, that as Bumble was now good to go, I had been well and truly bitten by the flying bug again. Like an animal let off the leash I just wanted to run and run, excitement over spilling anticipation, the chance to go flying not coming around quickly enough. Watching the weather, however, it became clear that I wouldn’t have to wait long.

Only eight days after it’s maiden flight and I was back on a launch site, rigging the balloon and briefing passengers. Having had to wait so long to get the balloon into the sky I’d built up a long list of promises ‘…of course you can have a flight when the balloons finally flying…’ and now it was time to deliver. Read more

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait: G-CJXD Maiden Flight Report

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

There is always something about the maiden flight of a brand-new balloon that gets the tingle of butterflies prickling inside. However, much the manufacturers have honed the art of construction, however tested, checked and approved it may be, you cannot help but remember that you are about to take to the skies in a brand-new craft for the first time in its life.

I have been privileged to feel those internal flutterings more than I probably should. I flew Tutti Frutti, Lambert Smith Hampton 3 and G-CEGG on their maiden flights and shared the sky as my father christened Rainbow Blue. But G-CJXD looked like it’d never even get to the launch site! Read more

Flight Reports: Royal County Of Berkshire Show 2015

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
Newbury Show 2015 - Header

The Royal County of Berkshire Show, or Newbury Show as it was previously known (and still is locally), always takes place on the third full weekend of September and for me, represents the culmination of the hot air ballooning calendar. It’s not a true “end of season” but in my mind commercial ballooning in the UK starts with the London Marathon in April and ends at Newbury in September. Over the years there have been mass launches of 20-30 balloons, and during the hey-day of the 1990s bore witness to flying strawberries, cheeses and liquorice allsorts, to keep with the agriculture theme!

The hot air balloon display at the Show has been organised by my family for many, many years, in fact, my father has been “in charge” for so long now that I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess to the exact length. Sadly though, with the decline in commercial ballooning over the past decade, as well as, a general malaise to ballooning in the area, the event has got smaller and smaller and now there are usually only 15-20 balloons registering and 10-15 actually flying from the launches. It’s still just enough to put on a spectacle for the public, but it isn’t as impressive as it once was. Read more

Streatley Nightglow 2015

Posted on by 5WC in Choc Dips, Hot Air Ballooning, Lambert Smith Hampton
Streatley Nightglow 2015 - Header

For over 20 years on the second Monday in August, or the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday depending on the weather, hot air balloons have gathered on Streatley Recreation Ground and put on a tethered display. Initially this was started purely as a thank you to the local residents for allowing balloons to fly from the site, but slowly, it has grown into a well known local event, drawing visitors from across the region and with the aid of some local beer and barbecued meat, raised much needed funds to help purchase, maintain and develop the Recreation Ground into a much enjoyed and used facility.

This year’s glow was all about the forecast. Originally slated for the Monday, the “Met Men” were saying it’d be too windy, that the trees would thrash around and the conditions just too unsafe for tethering. And they were right, however, give it a few hours and you’d get the polar opposite. Push it back one day and it’d be slightly overcast but light winds. In fact, it’d be virtually stationary. So, without a moment’s thought the glow moved. Tuesday arrived just as predicted with a still greyness that justified the decision and preparations were made. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ 1st August 2015 AM

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning

It feels like I’m getting rather good at this precision flying. Once again I’ve manage to mirror a flight I’ve previously made – taking off and landing in exactly the same places – because, almost a year to the day that I flew from Hungerford to Chieveley, I’ve done it again. However, this time I even manage to predict it before I took off.

Conditions weren’t as good as the previous morning. Rather than light winds, blue skies and a warming sun it was a little grey, misty and with a marked surface inversion meaning any wind on the surface had yet to appear but also, any sign of summer temperatures, I took to the skies trying to convince myself that it really was August and not October. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ 31st July 2015 AM

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning

I should have been in France, flying with the team from Lindstrand Technologies at the Lorraine Mondial Air Ballon event. Or Metz as it’s known to the British ballooning community. Sadly though, a misbehaving fuel cylinder and my own mental health meant that my time in France was cut down to a measly 36 hours.

It had been a trying week since I arrived back in the UK, watching pictures of record breaking mass ascents, knowing that I should be there, that it should have been 434 balloons not 433 that took to the sky. Plans were even imagined of driving back out for the final 4 days. But however much pain I was in mentally, I needed to protect myself and be fair on those around me, and so I decided that rather that charge back out there and back into the issues I’d previously failed to face, I would stay at home and with the weather becoming flyable, have my own “Mini Metz”. Read more

The 15th “Fly Trap” : G-CEGG Flight Report

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
G-CEGG - 9th July 2015 - Flight Track

People often joke about how a hot air balloon, especially when landing, appears “out of control”. Talk often turns to how landing in a balloon is essentially, crashing and how it is nothing more than a planned accident. That isn’t true, however, because whilst balloons travel with the wind, going where it blows, you can use the subtle variations in direction at different heights to steer a balloon’s general track (see my previous flight report for an example of extreme change in wind direction at varying altitudes) and of course, we have millimetre control over the height, and rates of ascent and descent of the balloon throughout.

All this means, that we can decide how and when we chose to land. the choice of site thought out and planned long before we ever touchdown. Is there livestock around? Is it arable crop? Where is the nearest road? How easy is vehicle access for retrieval? All questions answered before we arrive back on terra firma ensuring that everything should be simple, safe and with the minimum of disruption for the landowner. The perfect end to the flight. Read more

From Rugby To Golf : G-CEGG Flight Report

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since my last flight report. And in fact, the last aircraft I flew was actually of the fixed wing variety. The reason for this is very simple. Read my website and it’ll become clear that I am fighting, and winning, a battle against anorexia. An illness that demands control, and when ballooning is essentially all about giving up that control, things don’t lie easily. Unfortunately anorexia also has an ally in keeping me out the sky – PTSD – the result of a number of flights combining where landing sites and angry farmers left me feeling so panicked and anxious about being in the sky, I would end up shaking and petrified at the prospect of what lay ahead before I’d even got near a launch site.

And so I’ve shied away from it. Routine times for breakfast or dinner, acceptable excuses to miss flying slots and stay away from the sky. I’d sit there and munch through corn flakes or slicing up steak while the sun shone, the trees lay still and my heart and head went to war with each other. I was desperate to fly but distressed by the thought. So I stayed on the ground.

But things change, minds rewritten and desire can overcome fear. So with the weather looking good and the chance to fly from a new launch site over a town I know intimately I decided to set the alarm clock for 4.15am and go for a flight. Even if I did come very, very close to cancelling it the night before. 4.15am really? Read more