Flight Report: G-BSBM : Ballooning Over Berkshire

With opportunities to take to the skies beginning to draw to a close as a Summer transfers to Autumn, the weather takes a turn and the farming community push on with the birth of next year’s crops reducing landing sites by the day, any opportunity to take to the skies is one to try and grab. And having had such a good evening flying sociably with Richard Penney in the Ultramagic Demonstrator, it seemed only right to take to the skies again with a friend and share in the joy and excitement this sport has to offer.

Monday saw a near perfect flying slow appear in the afternoon and with my own options limited due to lack of crew, vehicles and even balloons, local pilot Ken Lowry very kindly offered me the chance to fly with him in his balloon, an opportunity I was not going to turn down.

G-BSBM Flight - Header

With Easterly winds forecast, the direction was great for a flight from my local village, giving us a direction that would take us away from the controlled airspace of RAF Benson and, instead send us out over the open countryside of West Berkshire, with a projected flight path down towards Hermitage and the top end of Newbury. I’ve talked before about how the winds change direction with changes in altitude and how you can use this to steer a balloon, so to speak, but the forecast wasn’t predicting much, if any, of a change as you climbed. This proved to be the case, and while there was a subtle change in direction with the natural “right with height” principle coming into play, you couldn’t really use it for your advantage.

But it really didn’t matter because, as flying evenings go it was stunning. It was very much a case of being in the sky, watching the late summer sun bake the ground beneath you in a warm glow as everything slowly drifts into retirement, shadows growing to age the day. Under blue skies, and with light winds, my passion and love the sport was being cemented. The previous flight had reminded me that ballooning is not just about solo flying in tiny “cloudhoppers” and tonight was¬†proving that fact. Reigniting memories of evening’s shared with friends, stood in a wicker basket crossing the world in a primitive and bygone form of aviation that cannot be equalled when set against the chocolate box world in which it seems so suited.

It was also nice to get to fly somebody else’s balloon. Now there is nothing wrong with Ken’s balloon, in fact Ken will openly admit it’s not the youngest, prettiest, or smartest balloon you will ever see, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a balloon. There is a case though, that when you fly nothing but low hour’d, highly polished and new, “modern” kit, you can become complacent, demanding, expectant. And so it’s nice to not only get into the air in something nearly as old as yourself, but also to have the opportunity to remind yourself why balloons are so simple, and that new, shiny, “modern” kit while nice isn’t actually necessary. You can fly a balloon just as well, you can pinpoint an approach just as accurately, with whatever the technology is that is allowing you the chance to flex your piloting muscles.

I cannot thank Ken enough for the flight, it really was a great flight, in good company and I’m already looking forward to the next chance we get to share the sky together. We landed after 45 minutes in a stubble field just south of Yattendon, right next to the open gate and easy access straight onto the main road. It truly was the perfect end to once again, the perfect flight. I seem to be getting a lot of these recently.


Sorry for the lack of pictures but I did the typical pilot’s trick of stick the camera in your pocket and forget about it because your busy chatting…. I mean flying.

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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