Flight Report: G-ISOB ~ 17th July 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Beat, Hot Air Ballooning

It’s been about 6 weeks since Beat told me they were changing their logo, that the balloon I’d been so proud, so excited, to finally be able to fly, that was the basis for a project that would give me the life I craved, is nothing now but an embarrassing failure. That all those who warned me about spending my own money on a balloon branded for someone else had been proved right.

I like flying cloudhoppers. I find them a silencing tonic to the madness of my mind. Flying alone, I can, for want of a better expression, talk to myself and change the narrative. I’m isolated in the air, in my own bubble, for an hour or so and I can leave behind whatever is plaguing me on the ground and exist for those fleeting minutes, in a world beyond reach. With everything that had gone on with Beat, their logo change, and the financial and emotional failure of the balloon project before it had even really started, I needed some time out, but that meant flying Beat! Read more

Flight Report: G-ISOB ~ 25th May 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Beat, Hot Air Ballooning

Less than 12 hours after the maiden flight of the Beat hopper, with the weather again perfect for flying, and still buzzing from the night before, it was back to a launch site for another flight. This time it would be a more private flight, the only balloon launching into the air, although this time I was being filmed! My friend Grant, who I’d swapped a flight in a plane for a flight in a balloon previously, owns a drone and whilst I’m becoming more and more adept at hanging, strapping and attaching action cameras from balloons to record the flight they always give you a ‘pilots eye’ as it were. You never get to see the balloon from the third-person perspective.

Grant was looking for interesting things to record with his drone, and living locally, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get together and record some external shots of the balloon during the preparation and initial take-off/flight phases. It’s strange how, when you start preparing and inflating a balloon you become focused on the job at hand and actually shut out the world around you. You can be in the main arena with a crowd of 100,000 people watching at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, or under the constant surveillance of a drone and never realise it. I completely forgot that Grant and his drone were buzzing around the launch site with us and simply got on with the job of inflating the balloon. Read more

Launching The Beat Balloon At Norwich Cathedral

Posted on by 5WC in Beat, Hot Air Ballooning

The ‘Beat balloon’ was delivered by Cameron Balloons in October 2016 and the first consideration was how Beat’s staff could get to see it. Photographs are all well and good, but until you see a balloon up close (and especially a cloudhopper) you just can’t quite grasp the true size, scale and beauty of it. The problem though is that Beat are based in Norwich, and I’m not. As an area, East Anglia isn’t heavily flown – there aren’t any existing balloon meets organised there – which made this tricky. To allow the staff to the see the balloon, I’d have to arrange an “event” myself and make a special trip.

But this raised the question of how? The simplest option would be to arrange to fly alongside one of the few pilots operating in the area, but this would be tricky for the staff – you can hardly ask an entire office to decamp to a field on the outskirts of Norwich purely to watch me take off! A better option would be to arrange a tether – where the balloon would remain tied to the ground – within the city itself. This would solve the problem of the staff coming to see the balloon, as well as, counter the ‘Harry Houdini’ disappearing act that would happen after take-off as I floated off away into the distance.

Now it was time to solve the issue of where? Read more

Flight Reports: Royal County Of Berkshire Show 2015

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
Newbury Show 2015 - Header

The Royal County of Berkshire Show, or Newbury Show as it was previously known (and still is locally), always takes place on the third full weekend of September and for me, represents the culmination of the hot air ballooning calendar. It’s not a true “end of season” but in my mind commercial ballooning in the UK starts with the London Marathon in April and ends at Newbury in September. Over the years there have been mass launches of 20-30 balloons, and during the hey-day of the 1990s bore witness to flying strawberries, cheeses and liquorice allsorts, to keep with the agriculture theme!

The hot air balloon display at the Show has been organised by my family for many, many years, in fact, my father has been “in charge” for so long now that I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess to the exact length. Sadly though, with the decline in commercial ballooning over the past decade, as well as, a general malaise to ballooning in the area, the event has got smaller and smaller and now there are usually only 15-20 balloons registering and 10-15 actually flying from the launches. It’s still just enough to put on a spectacle for the public, but it isn’t as impressive as it once was. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ 1st August 2015 AM

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

It feels like I’m getting rather good at this precision flying. Once again I’ve manage to mirror a flight I’ve previously made – taking off and landing in exactly the same places – because, almost a year to the day that I flew from Hungerford to Chieveley, I’ve done it again. However, this time I even manage to predict it before I took off.

Conditions weren’t as good as the previous morning. Rather than light winds, blue skies and a warming sun it was a little grey, misty and with a marked surface inversion meaning any wind on the surface had yet to appear but also, any sign of summer temperatures, I took to the skies trying to convince myself that it really was August and not October. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ 31st July 2015 AM

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

I should have been in France, flying with the team from Lindstrand Technologies at the Lorraine Mondial Air Ballon event. Or Metz as it’s known to the British ballooning community. Sadly though, a misbehaving fuel cylinder and my own mental health meant that my time in France was cut down to a measly 36 hours.

It had been a trying week since I arrived back in the UK, watching pictures of record breaking mass ascents, knowing that I should be there, that it should have been 434 balloons not 433 that took to the sky. Plans were even imagined of driving back out for the final 4 days. But however much pain I was in mentally, I needed to protect myself and be fair on those around me, and so I decided that rather that charge back out there and back into the issues I’d previously failed to face, I would stay at home and with the weather becoming flyable, have my own “Mini Metz”. Read more

The 15th “Fly Trap” : G-CEGG Flight Report

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
G-CEGG - 9th July 2015 - Flight Track

People often joke about how a hot air balloon, especially when landing, appears “out of control”. Talk often turns to how landing in a balloon is essentially, crashing and how it is nothing more than a planned accident. That isn’t true, however, because whilst balloons travel with the wind, going where it blows, you can use the subtle variations in direction at different heights to steer a balloon’s general track (see my previous flight report for an example of extreme change in wind direction at varying altitudes) and of course, we have millimetre control over the height, and rates of ascent and descent of the balloon throughout.

All this means, that we can decide how and when we chose to land. the choice of site thought out and planned long before we ever touchdown. Is there livestock around? Is it arable crop? Where is the nearest road? How easy is vehicle access for retrieval? All questions answered before we arrive back on terra firma ensuring that everything should be simple, safe and with the minimum of disruption for the landowner. The perfect end to the flight. Read more

From Rugby To Golf : G-CEGG Flight Report

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

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since my last flight report. And in fact, the last aircraft I flew was actually of the fixed wing variety. The reason for this is very simple. Read my website and it’ll become clear that I am fighting, and winning, a battle against anorexia. An illness that demands control, and when ballooning is essentially all about giving up that control, things don’t lie easily. Unfortunately anorexia also has an ally in keeping me out the sky – PTSD – the result of a number of flights combining where landing sites and angry farmers left me feeling so panicked and anxious about being in the sky, I would end up shaking and petrified at the prospect of what lay ahead before I’d even got near a launch site.

And so I’ve shied away from it. Routine times for breakfast or dinner, acceptable excuses to miss flying slots and stay away from the sky. I’d sit there and munch through corn flakes or slicing up steak while the sun shone, the trees lay still and my heart and head went to war with each other. I was desperate to fly but distressed by the thought. So I stayed on the ground.

But things change, minds rewritten and desire can overcome fear. So with the weather looking good and the chance to fly from a new launch site over a town I know intimately I decided to set the alarm clock for 4.15am and go for a flight. Even if I did come very, very close to cancelling it the night before. 4.15am really? Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ Flying High To Harwell

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning
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. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ Hopping Over The Harvest

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

In my report of my last flight, when I flew from The Dog House to Marcham I said that while no two flights are ever the same, it is interesting how flights can be repetitive. Even though the scenery, length or atmosphere may change, the starting and ending points remain the same. And once again, I have repeated the experience – taking off and landing in the same place as I did last September!

Being a mature student, married to the spare time created by my fight against personal battles as I walk the road to recovery, I am in the dare I say it, enviable position of having the free time to grab a Monday morning flight if the weather is right, even though part of me wishes I didn’t. And with the harvest in full swing there seems no better phrase to say than I simply made hay while they sun shined and took to the skies. Read more