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

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”.

The first flight was Friday morning and the forecast looked perfect. Blue skies, light winds and a surface inversion meaning that it was virtually flat calm for the first few hundred feet. They talk in clichés about this being the perfect flying conditions. You can drift around , hopping over trees before climbing up and reverting back to the forecast winds, the speed gently increasing with height and the direction becoming predictable allowing you to navigate your craft to a suitable landing site.

Taking off from Streatley Recreation Ground, a few hundred meters from the River Thames and the lock/weir means that often you will get a natural drift towards it. The flow of the water acting to suck you along, against any prevailing conditions. As I climbed slowly this effect was evident and I headed south. Thinking for a moment that I might be able to stay low and drift to the river to do a “splash and dash”, where the pilot skilfully skims the surface of the water before rising up again, only to see that Streatley Meadow had cattle grazing on it, and not wishing to disturb them I abandoned my plans, climbing up out of the flow, settling in for a more leisurely flight.

As I climbed, I did the natural clockwise rotation you’d expect. Crossing over the “landmarks” of the village I have called my home my entire life. The cross roads, the primary school, the mass of houses in Goring peeping out through the trees. All the while split by the Thames snaking to the south. I’ve lived here 31 years and it’s rural beauty seen from above still takes my breath away every time.

Heading now, as predicted, to the North West and looking at my new track, I could see that due to a number of pig units and woods containing game birds I wouldn’t be able to drop low and “play” for a while. I would have to stay high, which, while making for a slightly less interesting flight, would be the best course of airmanship. The countryside can be enjoyed by all but cooperation and considering is needed. I don’t want to upset or effect anyone needlessly.

The upper winds were no more than five to six knots, which is just a little slow to be useful. It’s enough to get you somewhere but it never actually feels like you’re making progress. And from my vantage point at around 1,500ft I could see that while the harvest has started, and a few stubble fields have appeared, they are firmly in the minority. This meant that I would need to concentrate on my flying. The speed wasn’t really there to fly on and on, over larger and larger uncut crop until I found somewhere, and in this situation you percentage fly. I could see that my current track wasn’t ideal, but if I could get some left, backing towards the West in technical terms, things would improve. A bit of map reading to play distance against time and I could see that after about 50 minutes flying, if I got lots of left there would be a stubble field, just off the main road I could reach, and if the steerage proved weaker I would be flying towards a couple of villages and the potential chance of playing fields and grass fields to land in.

Cautious not to descend too close to the pig unit I was currently over but aware that I needed to instigate my plan I started to edge the balloon down. As I did the predicted left started to arrive and everything started to come together. It became apparently quickly that I would get a large amount of left and the stubble field would be my landing site. In fact, there was such a swing in my direction as I descended that I ended up heading virtually 180 degrees to my original path. Sending me very close of the edge of the field, it’s bramble hedge and more importantly the telephone wire running parallel to it. Thankfully the hopper is small and so, I was able to drop in safely but it was certainly tighter than I would have liked.

Flight one of my “Mini Metz” was done. The forecast was giving a good chance of a second flight that evening, but sadly, the wind became gusty and still feeling a little nervous about landing sites and slightly tired from the morning, I decided to stay on the ground and wait. The weather was staying good for a while so I knew my second flight wouldn’t be too fair away…

Flight Track

G-CEGG (31st July 15 AM) - Flight Track

Pictures

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

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