Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ February Fun In The Sun Over Berkshire And Oxfordshire

February 2012 will be remembered as the month that couldn’t make up its mind. Two weeks ago and there was snow on the ground, gritting lorries working over-time and temperatures plummeting a long long way below zero.

Fast forward, and we were looking at an unseasonal heat wave. A large area of high pressure dominated the weather charts pushing temperatures in the high teens, two or three times the season average, and bringing settled, sunny days and clear overnight skies. The perfect ballooning weather.

As a result, I jumped at the chance to take to the skies once again in my cloudhopper, flying twice over the weekend (25th/26th) from launches in both Hungerford and Abingdon.

February 2012 Hopping 01

Flight 1 – Saturday Morning

One of the advantages to winter flying is the lack of thermal activity during the day. Hot air balloons’ avoid this activity as the unpredictable rising air currents make controlling the balloon very different. Their absence in winter means that it is possible to fly for longer, or at any time during the day.

As a result, it was decided that rather than getting up at first light, we would meet up just after breakfast and go for a late morning flight. We, therefore, met up at 8am, traveled to the launch site just West of Abingdon and produced to set about taking to the skies.

I flew for 45 minutes taking off at 9.15am, flying in a southeasterly direction I passed north of Marcham before dissecting Abingdon and Steventon continuing to head towards Culham and Sutton Courtney. I elected to land in a large water meadow between the two villages before walking the balloon to the road to pack it away and make retrieval easier.

February 2012 Hopping Track 01
Flight 2 – Sunday Evening

Having flown the previous morning it seemed the obvious choice to fly the following evening and experience the two extremes of the day. As life wakes and speeds up in the morning before slowing down in preparation for sleep in the evening. Flying in the last few hours before dusk can be truly spectacular and this was no exception, with hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun warmly baking the countryside in its final glow, being able to just sit and observe the world pass by beneath you is a truly breathtaking experience.

With the wind having backed (moved anti-clockwise) throughout the course of the weekend to now be coming from the South-West rather than the North-West as the previous morning I decided to move launch sites and fly from just North of Hungerford back over the Berkshire Downs along the M4 corridor.

Taking off the actual wind speed and direction up to 1000ft was in fact a lot slower and with a larger southerly component than forecast. This meant that I had to climb very high to pick up the speed and direction as originally forecast.

I flew for an hour, spending most of the flight above 2000ft as I passed over the M4 and RAF Welford before flying over open countryside electing to land in an empty paddock on the edge of Peasemore.

February 2012 Hopping Track 02
February 2012 Hopping 02
February 2012 Hopping 03
February 2012 Hopping 04
February 2012 Hopping 05

Photographs © Chris Dobson 2012

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

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