Flight Report: G-DIPZ ~ Dropping In To The Berkshire Show

If you’ve read this blog you’ll be fully aware that my Father organises the hot air balloon display every year for The Royal County Of Berkshire Show. As a result, on the 3rd weekend of September, I have regularly flown out of the showground, but I have never flown into the Showground.

The weather forecast for the 2013 Show, from a ballooning point of view, wasn’t great. It’s the old weather forecasting delight of “sunshine and showers”, which usually means it’ll be a bit windy to fly let alone, the issues surrounding ballooning and rain. Especially unpredictable “showers”. So when the forecast for the night before was showing signs of being flyable, it seemed daft not to take it.

I hadn’t actually flown G-DIPZ since the momentous flight when it took to the skies back in April, and so this seemed like the perfect excuse to take it for a flight. With a Westerly wind, it was off to Folly Dog Leg near Hungerford, purely because it provides the best area to fly over on that wind direction, but also, because however unlikely, there was an outside chance that I might be able to make it to the showground!

Launching into near blue skies, the balloon flew as well as I remembered, but the wind didn’t seem to want to play ball for any joking ideas of landing at the Show. It just appeared to have too much West in the wind to take me to the Showground; I just never felt like I could get north of the motorway, as I progressed, I just seemed to be stuck tracking straight down the southern side of the motorway.

There is an adage in aviation that goes: “right with height” which explains how the wind veers to the right as you gain altitude. It’s this change in wind direction that allows us to steer, while always downwind, a balloon in a simplistic way. However, needing to be north of the motorway, and knowing that I would need height/altitude to cross it, a landing at the Showground seemed to be once again, just outside my grasp. However, ballooning is a funny past time, and balloons on occasion, appear to have a mind of their own, and that night G-DIPZ kept up the tradition.

As I got closer to junction 13, the laws of meteorological physics went out the window and as I climbed to safely clear the roads, I turned left. Slowly. But definitely left. Sticking at this height, and on this track I was suddenly bang on for the Showground. And so, sticking religiously to the height, I crossed Junction 13 and flew straight over the showground.

I actually flew straight over the main ring, and could have easily landed in it, but at the time the army cadets were setting up the showjumping fences, and the first livestock was starting to arrive on site. While it would have been the complete icing on the cake to land in the main ring, it seemed the sensible thing to do, knowing that there are ample car parks surround the Showground, not to try and be clever and risk causing a problem, but simply fly on land in the car park and toast and unlikely achievement.

G-DIPZ - Folly Dog Leg - 20th Sept 2013 PM - Track

Photographs © James Dobson & Catherine Tytherleigh 2013

Posted on by 5WC in Choc Dips, Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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