FLIGHT REPORT: G-CJXD ~ 23rd April 2017

Hot air balloonists usually arrange the use of a handful of local launch sites from which they can fly, allowing them to plan flights that avoid any problematic areas – like controlled airspace or dense pastoral farming – to enjoy the relaxed time in the air. I have 3 regular launch sites – in Streatley, Hungerford and Abingdon – which I use, but from time to time, it can be nice to head somewhere different, launch from a new location and just freshen things up.

The local ballooning region – the 3-4-40 – arranged a flyout from the Rye Farm Water Meadows in Abingdon to coincide with St. George’s Day. Granted,  as new locations go, it wasn’t very far away from The Dog House, which is my usually Abingdon based starting point, but with the weather promising blue skies and light winds, this promised the opportunity to fly alongside more balloons than normal and, starting that little bit further East than normal, whilst still flying over land I knew well, somehow change the perspective on it.

Meeting on-site with 10 other balloons, the surface winds were initially very gusty. This was against the forecast which predicted light winds “all the way up” and so, after a bit of standing around whilst pilots stared at windblown trees claiming with no scientific basis of proof that the gusts were definitely dying away, we all started to inflate. Pilot intuition appeared correct and inflating the balloons went smoothly and before long, balloons were slowly taking off to litter the sky.

First into the air was Bradley Lewis, climbing very high he revealed the upper winds to be very calm and in fact, more speed was to be found on the surface. The complete opposite of what you’d expect. Normally, I would take to the air and climb up to learn this information, but with Bradley having acted as an oversized met-balloon, I knew that staying low and, therefore, in the faster winds would prove more useful, allowing me to travel away from the trees and river tributaries that lie directly East of the watermeadows.

Once again I was providing another local pilot with an insight into “lightweight” ballooning. Mike Wolf had been ground retrieve for the previous flight and so, it seemed only fair to thank him by giving him a flight. Armed with the knowledge that I’d want to stay lower than usual after taking off, I found myself heading in an Easterly flow which, if anything, was tracking very slightly to the North. This isn’t the worst line to fly, but once you’ve crossed the train line heading from Didcot to Oxford, the area turns very arable, and in April that means young growing crops and limited landing sites. I’d also learnt when Bradley had climbed high after take-off, that the upper winds, veered a long way to the South. They still headed in the main, but the North/South swing wasn’t far off 90-degrees!

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning Updated On: 21st August 2019

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