Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ Flying High To Harwell

G-CEGG - 7th August 2014 PM - Track

I’m afraid that there isn’t any GoPro video footage this time. While they may say that a bad workman blames his tools, this time around I am fully prepared to take the blame and say that it does help if you remember to press the record button before you take off!

This was actually the 2nd time that day I’d turned up to The Dog House wanting to fly. The forecast had suggested that it would be flyable both in the morning and evening, and with crew around morning and evening as well, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Originally the plan had been to fly my cloudhopper in the morning and then take Tutti Frutti, our Lindstrand 56 for a flight in the evening, but sadly, a lack of extra help and some heat/weight issues ruled out Tutti taking to the skies again. And so it became a day of two hopper flights.

Or that was the plan. Getting up first thing in the morning, the forecast looked fine and setting off for Abingdon it looked a stunning morning to take to the skies. A few bits of low lying wispy mist in places, but clear skies, light winds and ample visibility. Until you reached Abingdon. At which point everything turned white and we drove into a large, unforecast and stubborn bank of fog. Having got up expecting to fly, evening driving over expecting to, it was cruelly snatched away and I was sadly back in bed at the time I should have been taking off.

However, the evening was a different story. The forecast was good, the forecast was correct and when I got to The Dog House, there wasn’t an ounce of fog to be seen. Flying was on.

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As it turned out, the only thing the forecast slightly fell short on was the temperature. It was hotter, but not much, than expected and while still fine for the hopper, not flying Tutti was certainly a good idea. I was also joined, for the second time in a week but another balloon. Friends Woody Woodward and John Rose, who normally flies paying passengers, had decided the weather was too good to miss as well and would just fly for fun tonight in the MG hot air balloon.

When I take off I like to climb to the 2,000ft gradient wind fairly quickly so I can get a good idea of the various speeds and directions the wind is taking and therefore, plan my flight better and the route downwind I want to take. For instance, tonight I was acutely aware that the general forecast speed would place us around the airspace restrictions at Harwell after about an hour’s flying and so, would need to make sure I tried if possible to steer to one side or the other of it.

As a result, I ended up climbing high, and staying high for most of the flight. I have spoken before about how you get “right with height” and in fact, this was the total opposite. As I climbed, I went left, more and more left. It’s a bit counter intuitive but welcome none the less. One positive effect though of spending so long as height steering my craft towards better airspace was that I flew closer and closer to Didcot Power Station, now lacking 3 cooling towers, and was able to take some stunning photographs of it as I passed by.

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As I had predicted after takeoff, I’d flown for about 45 minutes and it was becoming apparent that while I’d achieved a good amount of left in an attempt to miss Harwell, I would still be catching the edge of their airspace, which meant I either had to overfly it at height or land before. John and Woody had elected to land before, and looking at the options for available sites if I did carry on, as well as, factoring in the speed I was travelling, I made a decision to drop very quickly and come in to land in the same area, initially hoping to get into the same area they were in, but due to the fact tonight was “right with descent” I ended up having to drop down the other side of a bank of trees. Coming in to land in a lovely cut grass field right next to a tiny track, although it was bizarre, as I came into land I suddenly accelerated and from average 6-7 knots for the whole flight, even when as gradient, I was suddenly crossing the tress going a speedily 11 knots. However, this was a very tall set of trees, and as I fell into their shelter I instantly slowed back down and landed in a much more pleasant 5 knots.

Packing away, watching the sunset and waiting for my retrieve to arrive, it really had been a beautiful night for a flight. It’s just a shame that so much was spent at such height, that I actually remember it more now for being slightly monotonously boring than anything else. Although finally getting to see the new look Power Station up close was nice.

More Pictures

Photographs © Chris & James Dobson

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

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