What No Wicker? Another Tekno Flight! Flight Report

Ultramagic Tekno Basket Flight - Flight Track

Having previously been treated to a stunning evenings flying with the guys from Ultramagic UK and their lightweight Tekno 70 demonstrator, I jumped at the chance for another flight when Richard Penney asked if I fancied taking the Tekno basket for a spin this time.

Normally a hot air balloon basket is made of wicker, in fact you will often hear bemused onlookers proclaiming that hot air ballooning is essentially taking to the skies in an over sized laundry basket, but that isn’t an argument you can throw at the Tekno basket, because there isn’t any laundry, or wicker anywhere in sight.

The basket makes use of the same basic substructure as a traditional basket: with a top and bottom ring supported by flexible vertical poles. It has a solid wooden floor and the same load bearing wire system, with wires running down, under and back up to the burner frame. Everything is identical and built to the same standard as a tradition basket. The only, and obvious difference is that the sides of the basket are covered composite padding rather than wooden wicker, which means that when you’ve finished flying you can disassemble the whole thing, fold it down and pack it away into the back of car. A party trick its traditional sibling will never be able to replicate.

Arriving on site, and under the instruction of Richard I saw just how simple the Tekno basket/system is to assemble and prepare for flight. The fold down sides, actually provide an added, and unexpected bonus, in that where in a traditional basket you have to lift heavy gas cylinders up and over the basket side to load them on board, with the essentially “removable” sides, you simply slide the tank in before lifting and securing the sides into place. As a man with a bad back caused by lifting full cylinders into baskets situated in high-sided trailers, this lack of heavy lifting luxury appeals a lot!

This time around the flight was to be “mine”. By that I mean, that on my original Tekno flight, Richard inflated and took off before I gained control and flew on and landed. Richard, wanting to ensure I got the full Tekno experience, gave me the pleasure of doing the entire flight from inflation to deflation. And as we again took off from Richard’s place just North of Basingstoke we found the forecast somewhat more optimistic than the actual winds of the day.

The forecast was predicting a pedestrian surface wind, but a more usable and active upper wind and instead all we found was a lethargic drift the whole way up. I’m not actually sure we ever managed to get above 5 knots during the flight, and most of it was spent at 3 knots of less. In fact, I think, our crewman Robert, tasked with collecting us after landing, could have easily kept up with our flight if he’d chosen to walk!

Heading to the North East, the lack of speed did however, mean that firstly I got a lot of time to have a look at the kit, the basket, and then totally forget that I was stood in something that on first impression, looks unsecure and non protective. It feels absolutely no different to a traditional basket. It feels identical to its wicker sibling, I would have no qualms at all, flying or buying one.

The pedestrianism of our flight, also meant I could to have an almost forensic inspection of the world beneath. An array of Solar cells, a National Trust property and a sadly unloved, house surrounded by moat and drawbridge (ok it’s probably just a bridge) all offered up their secrets and after 50 minutes of flying we crept over Bramley Green, 4km from our start and with the opportunity to borrow the paddocks out the back of a row of new build houses. It was almost a case of “buffet ballooning” to borrow an expression, and after landing on the freshly cut grass, we were met by a warm an welcoming reception and offers of post flight drinks.

Once again, I cannot thank Richard, Robert and Ultramagic UK for the flight and for giving me another view of true lightweight ballooning. There certainly is something to be said about lighter kit, from the point of view of fuel economy, transportation and my back.

Now, where did I put that lottery ticket?

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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