Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 21st April 2017

Hot air balloons work by trapping a bubble of hot air inside the fabric envelope. In very simple terms, the larger the bubble the more weight you can then carry; whilst the hotter the bubble (compared to the external air temperature) the faster the balloon will climb. This means that once you’ve sewn the balloon envelope together, and thus fixed the ultimate size of the bubble you can trap, the amount of weight you can carry becomes essentially fixed as well.

Balloons, for a number of reasons, have been getting ever heavier. The first Lambert Smith Hampton balloon – G-LSHI – weighed 90kg, whilst 18 years later, the third balloon – G-CDYL – weighed 113kg, an increase of 23kg even though the balloons were technically the same size! This has lead, over the last few years, to a real drive to decrease the weight of the kit and whilst developments in the area of tradition baskets and burners still lags behind, huge strides have been made regarding envelopes, and especially the base weight of the fabrics used.

Bumble is made using modern lightweight fabric and so weighs only 74kg. The same size as the G-CDYL this represents a saving of 39kg – which is the equivalent of more than one full tank which doesn’t have to be lifted into the sky. This is a huge saving and is reflected in both the way the balloon flies – being lighter and thus more responsive to the heat inputs from the burner – as well as the amount of gas you use when flying. As modern lightweight fabric balloons are still relatively rare, not many pilots have had a chance to see or fly them and so, I have been happily offering the chance to local pilots to come and have a flight in the balloon to see what it’s like. Colin Butter, who is in fact the local examiner who passed me ‘safe to fly’ when I achieved my Privates Pilots’ Licence in 2004, was keen to have a flight and since we haven’t flown together since that flight 13 years before, I was more than happy to get into sky with him.

If you speak to people who regularly crew balloons, helping to set them up and pack them away they will tell you that pilots know very little, you regularly see humorously captioned photographs posted to social media showing a group of pilots stood looking quizzically at a piece of equipment apparently wondering where exactly it goes. So, with a forecast flying slot that wasn’t vintage – a thick overcast sky leaving everything looking grey, miserable and almost damp in appearance – myself and Colin enlisted the help of my Father and Mike Wolf to act as retrieve crew, meaning this flight was being undertaken by four licenced pilots! What could possibly go wrong!

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning Updated On: 29th September 2019

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