Mike Evans – G-WATT First Flight

On 20th January 1990, the National Power Cooling Tower took to the skies of Château-d’Oex, Switzerland, for the first time ever as part of annual week long balloon festival. Piloting the balloon for the very first time was Bristol based balloonist Mike Evans, and I spoke to him recently about his memories of that first flight.

CD: So Mike, looking in it’s log book, it appears you had the honour of it’s first flight in January 1990 out in Château-d’Oex? I’m currently putting together information about the balloons I own and was wondering if you’d mind letting me know any memories you have of that first flight, or just flying the balloon during that first week?

ME: Blimey, that was some time ago and yes I have one or two vivid memories of that week.!!!

The one in particular that sticks in my mind is the lack of up down maneuverability it had due to the massive base. When working with valley winds, as you do alpine flying, it is sometimes essential to descend quickly to capture lower wind streams but due to that huge base I didn’t get down quick enough and ended up in a wind that took me up the mountain instead of the lower valley wind.

The consequence was ending up near the top of the mountain and having to land on a plateau near the summit! Hence, and I am sure you can guess the next bit, a helicopter retrieve was needed! Most embarrassing but an experience not to repeat. It had other consequences too. I had a range rover at the time and one of my crew was an expert off-roader. Before the helicopter was called, he decided we should try to drive to the landing spot… Well the slope was so steep that the truck sat back on its tail hitch. OH MY GOD another experience never to repeat!

I remember as a balloon it flew OK in calm-ish weather but didn’t like much wind at all and would drag and drag on landing. I must admit though, that over all, as special shapes go, certainly not the worst balloon to fly. However, I do remember distinctly that it needed a massive trailer and as a result, for that initial trip it severely restricted our speed all the way to Switzerland!

Posted on by 5WC in Cooling Tower First Edition

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