Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 23rd July 2016

While many people have many theories, and the question as to exactly why will never be truly be answered, the undeniable fact is that hot air ballooning is in decline. Increased cost, bureaucracy and changes in agricultural practices have all certainly played a part but the simple, most obvious result, of whatever driving factor is behind it, is that you just don’t see many balloons in the sky anymore.

Whether morning or evening, when it’s perfectly flyable you can turn up to a launch site and, instead of seeing half a dozen or more fellow aviators rigging their craft, preparing to fly, be met by empty solitude. Too often a wonderful flying slot only attracts one or two others out to play. So, imagine my surprise, when I arrived at The Dog House at Frilford Heath to find not one, two or even three other balloons but 6 getting ready to fly.

It has been far too long since I last flew with my father. Our tradition of starting each new season with a flight seemingly long since dead; but considering Bumble carries his initial in it’s registration – G-CJXD – and he was yet to fly in the new balloon either, it was time to right both wrongs.

People always ask whether I prefer to morning or evening flights? I always try to answer that each is very different, that the atmosphere and emotion they deliver so polarised it’s hard to really compare. I try to liken them to the changing seasons – although in the UK that’s blending into one long, wet miserable depression – but ultimately, and honestly, I prefer morning flights. There is just something special about watching the world wake up and come alive around you, it fills me with a sense of wonder and enjoyment that I’ve never found matched by an evening flight.

This morning embodied my belief. Conditions were perfect: light variable surface winds with a general slow drift as you climbed to altitude, glorious chocolate box blue skies with only the first few hints of morning cloud. It was a picture perfect blank canvas ready to be filled with a kaleidoscope of colour. All 6 balloons took off within a few minutes of each other creating a floating sea of pearls as we tracked down the A338 heading South towards Grove. The open countryside allowing each balloon the luxury of popping up and down as their hearts desired, an almost musical waltz a few hundred feet from the ground.

One of the main reasons I adore morning flights is the diurnal awakening of the world around me. I love just being perched, in seeming stillness, watching the world come alive. My senses tingling as light, heat and sound all increase, one desperate to out play the other, as life gathers pace. The sun rising from the horizon, enriching the lingering monotone into a sea of colour, it’s rays imperceptibly warming the air to remove the overnight chill.

After an hour of flying, with the sun’s heat getting ever stronger, it was becoming apparent that it was time to land. We’d enjoyed the relaxed simplicity and fun of flying with in light winds. Where only minor natural drifts in the surface direction divert you from the constant flow and heading of the upper winds. Suddenly however, and without real warning, we turned ninety-degrees. An unexpected perpendicular shift that signals the start thermic winds, the morning heat creating eddies and currents that sap control of the balloon from the pilot.

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

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