Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 5th July 2017

Having been working my way through the list of “promised flights” has meant that it’s been over a year since I last flew with Woody and considering that we used to do so much flying together in Lambert Smith Hampton 3 (G-CDYL) that is an amazing fact! Also, with the wind so predominantly coming from the North and/or West I hadn’t launched from Warborough Green since Bumble first took the skies on its maiden flight either! I actually find that the enjoyment of flying can get a bit stale if you’re only ever launching from the same few fields, flying over the same few miles and landing in the same few spots and so, with the wind coming from the East and Woody around and wanting to fly, the plan was hatched to return to Warborough and get back in the air together.

The reason that I fly from Warborough (or Streatley) when the wind is coming from the East is that it allows me to fly away from the controlled Airspace at RAF Benson, taking any pressure that would bring to flying out of the equation. Balloonists, where possible, will try to avoid flying on wind directions that will take them towards controlled airspace, especially if you’ll be reaching it around the time you are looking to land, and so, it was no surprise that with almost perfect flying conditions two other balloons that decided to join Woody and myself at Warborough.

The flight nearly didn’t happen, however, as I struggled to find a retrieve driver. Without somebody driving along ready to pick you up when you’ve landed you cannot fly and whilst, Adam Cummins would be joining myself and Woody in the sky as a thank you for crewing my previous flight he doesn’t drive, so I couldn’t even beg, bribe or blackmail him into staying on the ground to follow us. Woody, as usual, came to the rescue – Andy Bassett and his daughter Sam were willing to save the day and so, with everything now in place we met up at Warborough and set about rigging the balloon for flight.

When I’ve previously flown with Woody we’ve shared the flying equally, one of us would inflate and fly the first “half” before the other takes over to fly on and land. This time, however, as I’d done a lot more flying recently than Woody I said I would inflate and launch but then hand the balloon quickly over to Woody’s control. Launching from the Green we expected to head out to the West but initially went South. As we climbed higher our track swung around – the traditional “right with height” kicking in – to take us on the expected Westerly heading, and in fact, the higher we went, the more our track continued to turn to the North, in total, the amount of steerage between the upper and surface winds appeared to be close to 90 degrees.

Local knowledge and a look at the flying map suggested that staying high to fly across the Northern edge of Didcot would provide better landing opportunities than dropping low and picking up the Northerly flow again as this would push us onto the land east of Didcot which was mainly maturing crop. Adam has actually been talking about learning to fly and so, whilst we were essentially stuck, level flying to keep the balloon on the required heading, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to let Adam have some “burner time”. Now, with two pilots alongside him, with two different approaches to level flying, suggesting different ways to feel/see when the balloon is starting to descend, I’m not sure how much Adam actually learnt, but all credit to him, he managed to cut through the confusing barrage of instructions to keep the balloon heading in the right direction!

Having crossed the top of Didcot, Woody took control of the balloon again. Thoughts were now turning to potential landing sites, we could stay high and fly on to Milton/Steventon but knowing we’d head South when we descending meant a better option would be to try and steer the balloon across the Didcot Power Station/Milton Park to land in the fields just south I’d thought about but failed to reach on my previous flight.

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

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