Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ The Perfect Morning To Learn To Fly

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning, Lambert Smith Hampton

After the perfect conditions of last nights flight and with the weather still providing near perfect flying conditions, it seemed foolish not to make the most of it and go for another flight. With the wind having backed overnight from the Westerly winds that gave us a track down the M4 from Hungerford, to a Southerly wind this morning, but still perfectly acceptable, we once again set off to Folly Dog Leg near Hungerford.

This time, however, rather than just going for a pleasure flight, we were flying with a purpose. Jack Kennedy, whose father has been ballooning and crewing with us for years, and in fact, has essentially grown up ballooning with us, is now at an age whereby he’s old enough to gain his own licence and with oodles of enthusiasm, is speeding through his training. Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ Sharing The Skies With Friends

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning, Lambert Smith Hampton

One of the biggest attractions for a lot of people towards hot air ballooning is the social side that accompanies it. Whether that’s with the passengers you share a flight with, being in the sky alongside other balloons, or simply the post-flight drink in the P.U.B. after. While I adore cloudhopper flying, there are times when it’s just nice to sit back, relax and partake in a flight with friends, rather than on your own.

Tonight was exactly one of those nights. With glorious sunshine, light winds and a balloon it almost appeared to be begging to take to the skies: my father, myself and good friend, Clive Brash set up for a flight from Folly Dog Leg in Hungerford. On arrival, not unexpectedly, we found a launch site full of other balloons and balloonists all having had the same idea.
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Flight Report: G-DIPZ ~ Double Dipping

Posted on by 5WC in Choc Dips, Hot Air Ballooning

I think it’s fair to say that for a long, long time this day looked like it may never happen. The previous summer I had purchased a small, 17,000 cubic foot cloudhopper from Belgium – OO-BRV – which at the time, in a non-flyable state, not because of there was anything technically wrong with the balloon, but simply because, the paperwork wasn’t in order.

And after all, how much trouble can paperwork cause!? It turns out rather a lot!

The reason I wanted this balloon, the reason I was prepared to undertake this paperwork challenge was that this balloon holds a secret. It wasn’t always OO-BRV; it started its life as G-DIPZ, the backup balloon to G-DIPI – or the old Choc Dips special shape balloon I already owned.
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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 Reports: G-DIPI ~ Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2012

Posted on by 5WC in Choc Dips, Hot Air Ballooning

Every August, Ashton Court in Bristol plays host to the UK’s largest free outdoor event (and the largest annual balloon meet in Europe) – the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. This year, we were asked whether we’d like to bring the Choc Dips special shape balloon to the Fiesta – a balloon not seen at the Fiesta for 22 years having last flown there in 1990! Of course, we said yes!

Mass Launches take place in the morning and evening on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday but to “open” the Fiesta in style they organise a Special Shapes Rodeo on the Thursday evening. Unfortunately, as you’ll have no doubt read in previous blog posts about my time piloting the Churchill Dog special shape – we’ve been unable to free fly from the Shapes Rodeo for a number of years – however, things were a little different in 2012…
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Churchill Wishes The Queen A Very Happy Diamond Jubilee – Oh Yesss

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

With celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee taking place across the UK: towns, cities, and villages came over all red, white and blue with street parties (my village held the longest street party in the UK crossing a bridge over the River Thames!), music concerts and the spectacular lighting of over 4000 beacons across the UK.

One of these beacons was placed on Durdham Downs in Bristol and, a day’s activities had been planned to entertain the crowds before the beacon was lit at 10pm. Bristol is known as the home of UK ballooning due to both the largest hot air balloon meet – the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – and the largest producer of hot air balloons in the world – Cameron Balloons – residing in the city. 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

Sometimes The Weather Is Just Too Good To Miss

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air ballooning is a real passion, I have never just looked at it as a “job”. I truly enjoy flying in balloons: whether it’s flying solo in my cloudhopper enjoying the freedom it brings, taking first time passengers for a flight and seeing their reactions or taking to the sky in a special shape knowing that people on the ground will be stopping in amazement as a dog, dragon or chocolate pot float serenely by!

I just love being in the air and so any opportunity to fly I will take. I had flown with my father on a very long flight from The Dog House to Cold Ash and while the weather was perfect the following morning, the late night meant my father had, annoyingly, elected to stay in bed rather than get up before sunrise to go ballooning again. Read more

Flight Report: G-ODAD ~ Getting May Off To A Flying Start

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

Unfortunately, a few weeks or was it months ago somebody decided that most of England were now in drought conditions due to a very dry winter and so enforced a large scale hosepipe ban. The mere mention of drought and hosepipe bans, of course, guarantees the start of weeks of rain and unsettled weather and once again, this proved true.

With weeks of endless heavy rain, the chance to go flying has been virtually non-existent; however, a brief ridge of high pressure covered the UK bringing with it the opportunity for a couple of flights and so I grabbed them. Read more

Coming To A Sky Near You, For The First Time Since 1995!

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

One aspect of commercial hot air ballooning is sponsorship, where companies’ will buy a hot air balloon with the envelope artworked to promote a specific brand or product. Balloons provide a perfect and proven advertising medium and companies have used this (and continue to do so) for over 25 years to gain low-cost high-quality exposure. Unfortunately, there are cases where a company will buy a balloon and then a year or two later, completely unrelated to the balloon, close a brand down resulting in an almost new balloon that is perfectly flyable being put into storage, from which, they very rarely reappearing or worse still, destroyed.

Virgin Cola is a prime example of this. In 1995 Richard Branson started his first attempt to fly a hot air balloon non-stop around the world, something which, at that point had never been achieved. Virgin Cola had been launched the previous year and to push the brand in an attempt to win a market share from rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Virgin made the decision to brand the large fuel cylinders as Virgin Cola Cans and purchased a small 21,000 cubic foot cloudhopper, shaped to look like the planned ’round the world balloon. Read more