Flight Report: G-BSEA ~ 17th April 2017

Good or bad, an old boys club with closed doors or a tight-knit community of like-minded adventurers, hot air ballooning is the preserve of a small minority of people. This minority means that, whether proceed by reputation or rumour, simple acquaintance or long-lasting friendship, everybody seems to know everyone and, more often than not, will happily help each other out.

It may appear, that training to fly, is all about getting in the sky and learning to control the aircraft safely back to the ground. There are, however, some ground-based hoops that also have to be jumped through. Five written exams need to be revised, learnt and passed, while a day must be spent learning the differences between a cow and a sheep, oil-seed rape and winter wheat and how not to upset the very farmers whose land we so often rely on.

I’d happily question whether a course on Landowner Relations is more beneficial than a few episodes of Radio 4’s Farming Today, but it’s served ballooning well for years, and since I’d not attended a course for a few myself, I headed to Bristol for a morning in the countryside. Bradley Lewis was also attending the course – Bradley being the first pilot, after myself, to have actually flown my balloon – Bumble. Once there, Bradley introduced me to Tom Reddy. Tom is a PUT (Pilot Under Training), attending to ‘tick the box’ as it were, en-route to his licence. We’d never met before, and so, I was a little surprised to learn he lived only a few miles up the road from me.

As I said, ballooning often has an “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” attitude and, having allowed Bradley to fly my balloon the previous year, he kindly offered me the chance to fly his in return. With a Northerly wind forecast to take us South, I was once again preparing to fly from The Dog House at Frilford Heath. Arriving at the pub, under a grey, cold and overcast sky, I met up with Bradley and his Dad, not knowing Tom was coming as well. Informed that three was to become four, we set about preparing the balloon as soon as Tom had arrived.

Everybody prepares for a flight in their own way, and so, removed from the familiarity of my own equipment, I felt a bit like a naïve infant. Standing around, nervously waiting to be told what to do, fearful that any exuberance and knowledge may be frowned upon. With the basket rigged, we set about spreading the envelope, ready to cold inflate. As it sat there, awaiting the first puff of air, it started to rain! It wasn’t heavy, but it was enough to be more than a ‘spit in the wind’. If it had been my balloon, I’d have said “to the bar!” and given up flying for the wetness of a pint glass – but it wasn’t my balloon and so, I did the only thing I could. I told Bradley I was happy with any decision he made and walked away, not wanting to put any pressure or expectation on his decision.

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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