Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 13th June 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I’m sure I’ve written before about how I don’t really like to promise my friends balloon flights. It’s not that I’m anti-social and don’t want to fly with other people, it’s just that I hate saying to people “of course you can have a flight” and then letting days, weeks, months even, go by with no sign of actually fulfilling that promise. It makes me feel empty and almost dishonest, and so, whilst I am happy to fly my friends, and there is an option invitation to them all that if they ever want a balloon flight to just let me know, I try to not to physically say “yep, lets do this” and instead prefer to just ring people up when the weather looks good and say “fancy a flight…?”.

Tonight I was flying with two friends – Tom Reddy and Matthew Rogers – who fall dichotomously onto the two branches of my passenger philosophy. Tom was very much a last-minute phone call, offering him the final free space in the basket, whilst Matthew, on the other hand, had been patiently waiting for me to actually do some flying having been promised a flight a long time ago.

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Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 21st April 2017

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloons work by trapping a bubble of hot air inside the fabric envelope. In very simple terms, the larger the bubble the more weight you can then carry; whilst the hotter the bubble (compared to the external air temperature) the faster the balloon will climb. This means that once you’ve sewn the balloon envelope together, and thus fixed the ultimate size of the bubble you can trap, the amount of weight you can carry becomes essentially fixed as well.

Balloons, for a number of reasons, have been getting ever heavier. The first Lambert Smith Hampton balloon – G-LSHI – weighed 90kg, whilst 18 years later, the third balloon – G-CDYL – weighed 113kg, an increase of 23kg even though the balloons were technically the same size! This has lead, over the last few years, to a real drive to decrease the weight of the kit and whilst developments in the area of tradition baskets and burners still lags behind, huge strides have been made regarding envelopes, and especially the base weight of the fabrics used. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 4th June 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

Having returned Woody Woodward to the ground on our previous flight with slightly more than a gentle bump it seemed only fair to apologise to him with another flight. This time, however, not only was the chocolate box appearance of cloudless skies and a warming summer sun replaced by a cold, grey, almost depressive monotony, but Woody declared he wanted to land the balloon himself!

Previously, I’d explained how local knowledge can play a vital role in decision making when flying and tonight proved how, sometimes, all the local knowledge in the world can count for nothing. If the winds aren’t there, there is nothing you can do. Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 26th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

As mentioned in the report of my previous flight, Woody Woodward used to fly the Variety Club hot air balloon. Sadly, when it reached the end of it’s flying life, Woody wasn’t in a position to purchase another balloon leaving him grounded. UK law dictates that to act as a pilot in command you are required to complete annual currency – currently 5 flights in 13 months for a private pilot – and without a balloon to fly, Woody risks missing this requirement and lapsing his licence. The result is that I have always tried to ensure that he can get into the sky from time to time in my balloon to make sure this doesn’t happen.

This meant that less than three weeks since Bumble had taken off on its maiden voyage, and for the third time in four flights, I was once again airborne with Woody. Unlike our previous flight, however, where I’d taken off and Woody hand landed, this time Woody was responsible for parting us from the ground and I’d be required to safely reattach us later! Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 15th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

I’m sure I should open this with some witty statement about how flying slots are like buses – joking how you wait for one and 3 come along at once – but really, I think it’s more a case that however fast the clouds may scud across the sky on occasions, the weather is fundamentally a slow-moving thing.

I also don’t know why I constantly try to describe the way you can steer a balloon by using the adage “right with height”. Attempting to explain how the winds apparently veer clockwise with altitude in the northern hemisphere, because that never seems to hold true anymore either! Read more

Flight Report: G-CJXD ~ 14th May 2016

Posted on by 5WC in Bumble, Hot Air Ballooning

With the nightmare, and stupidity, of something as basic as paperwork having kept me from sharing the sky with friends for so long it was obvious, that as Bumble was now good to go, I had been well and truly bitten by the flying bug again. Like an animal let off the leash I just wanted to run and run, excitement over spilling anticipation, the chance to go flying not coming around quickly enough. Watching the weather, however, it became clear that I wouldn’t have to wait long.

Only eight days after it’s maiden flight and I was back on a launch site, rigging the balloon and briefing passengers. Having had to wait so long to get the balloon into the sky I’d built up a long list of promises ‘…of course you can have a flight when the balloons finally flying…’ and now it was time to deliver. 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 ~ Marching To Marcham

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

They say that one of the things that attracts people to hot air ballooning is the fact it is an unplanned adventure. Taking to the skies in a craft which, in the eyes of most, is overly simplistic and obviously unsteerable. While it is hard to argue a big fabric bag, some wicker and a ‘Bunsen burner’ in grown up disguise isn’t simple in comparison to the heavier-than-air flying machines it shares the skies with, balloons can be steered by reading the winds. To a point. And you will often find people talking about their love for launching into the sky, into the unknown. Pilots’ will often to be heard musing about how “no two flights are ever the same”.

But that last statement isn’t 100% true. To a point. Flights may never be exactly the same: the wind will always be a different strength, the cloud base a foot or two lower, it may even be morning versus evening, but for all their subtle differences flights can on occasions pretend to be twins. To illustrate this point perfectly, we have my flight on Friday morning and one I made in April 2007. On Friday, I flew G-CEGG from The Dog House Inn, Frilford Heath landing an almost apologetic 8 minutes later in a lovely grass field 2km south at the village of Marcham.
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Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ A Hop, Skip And Jump Over Abingdon

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

While it is possible to fly throughout the year – the reason though that you’ll see more balloons during the summer “months” is simply that the weather is more settled and predictable. That doesn’t mean, however, that during the winter months it isn’t possible to get into the air – opportunities are just much more limited.

However, winter flying can be just as good, if not better than it’s more regular summer sibling. With the lack of thermal heating and associated gusting winds it is possible to fly at any time throughout the day – not just first thing in the morning or last thing at night – meaning ballooning becomes almost sociable! Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ Hedgehopping

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

One of the nice things about owning a cloudhopper hot air balloon is having the ability to grab a flying slot at the last minute. Unlike a traditional balloon which requires a number of people to go flying (passengers, crew etc.) and the use of a big 4×4 to tow a trailer as the balloon flies ready for recovery once landed, you can simply throw a cloudhopper into the back of a family sized car and with one driver go flying. Perfect!

With a forecast of very slow westerly winds, I made a last minute decision that there was in face enough wind to safely fly and not risk becoming becalmed, I made a phone call, found a driver and headed up to The Dog House at Frilford Heath to join two other balloons in  taking to the skies. Read more