On Your Marks, Get Set, Go! The Virgin London Marathon 2012

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

Each year, as around 35,000 runners start the grueling 26-mile course around the streets of London, they are wished good luck by a mass display of tethered hot air balloons. For the last 3 years, this display is organised on behalf of the Marathon by Airship & Balloon Company and it has become a real feature of the start line gaining mass television coverage, print media and in recent years the social media platforms (e.g. Twitter).

I was there this year working for Airship & Balloon Company tethering the Lucozade cloudhopper and while wind conditions on the surface were faster than you would ideally like, especially for tethering a one-man balloon where the basket is replaced by a seat, at no point did they become unsafe. Read more

Flight Report: G-BYIY ~ Like Father Like Son (A Start Of Season Tradition)

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning, Tutti Frutti

The ballooning season in the UK runs naturally from March to October as the summer months bring high pressure, settled weather and a greater number of flying days. My father taught me to fly and we are now both commercial pilots flying balloons over the Berkshire and Oxfordshire skies.

Over the last few years a tradition has started to form that at the beginning of each season we have a flight together, mainly because the opportunity to get in the sky and share our passion together doesn’t come along too often. Having managed to fly together on the very first flight of 2012 we have also managed to get another flight together, at the start of the season, taking our private hot air balloon Tutti Frutti for a flight in slow conditions over the countryside south of Abingdon.
Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ Perfect Conditions For The Perfect 21st Birthday Present

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

Pilots’ from time to time have been accused of believing they are the most impotant people on an aircraft, whether it’s a commercial airliner or a simple hot air balloon, the reality is that no matter what the pilot thinks, without the ground crew, no aircraft would ever take to the skies!

When one of our ground crew asked if I could fly his daughter Rachel and her boyfriend as a present for his 21st birthday it was my absolute pleasure to say yes. Unfortunately, low cloud scuppered any chance of being able to fly them on his actual birthday, however, only two days later and in near perfect conditions, we were able to take to the sky over South Oxfordshire for arguably, one of the best flights I’ve ever had.
Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ Start Of Season Test Flight (A Pilot’s MOT)

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

A hot air balloon is a registered aircraft in exactly the same way as a commercial airliner, fixed-wing plane or helicopter – as a result, you must have a pilot’s licence to legally fly a balloon. In the UK, we have currently have two types of licence for balloons – a Private Pilot’s Licence which allows you to fly a balloon as long as it’s not for hire or reward (i.e. just a pleasure flight with friends on a sunny evening) and a Commercial Pilot’s Licence which does allow you to fly for hire and reward and earn money from flying.

Holder’s of a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, however, and rightly so, have to undergo a test flight with a Civil Aviation Authority appointed examiner every year to ensure continued competency to the required high level of flying. I hold a Commercial Pilot’s Licence, and therefore, have to undertake a test flight at the start of every season. A flight I make with my local examiner, and balloon inspector,  Chris Dunkley. Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ Marching Over South Oxfordshire & West Berkshire

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

Hot air ballooning is a very weather dependant activity and unfortunately some people can arrange balloon flight after flight only for it to be cancelled as the weather puts play to safe flight. For others, it sometimes just happens that you are in the right place at the right time and take to the skies at the first time of asking.

Chris Aram, an old school friend, was in exactly that situation when he rang me on a Friday afternoon to ask if would be possible to organise a last minute balloon flight for himself and his wife Hayley that weekend. High pressure was building across the UK and while Saturday looked windy, Sunday would be flyable.
Read more

Growing Old Gracefully

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

It seemed appropriate, that on the day Ordnance Survey’s flying unit moved to a new home at East Midlands Airport, that their old cloudhopper hot air balloon be inflated, to mark the occasion!

In fact, while we had read the BBC article earlier in day, the inflation wasn’t specifically done to mark the event. Ordnance Survey ran 2 hot air balloons commercially during the late 1990s to promote the brand and to be able to offer corporate hospitality flights to clients, staff, and the press. They finished using the balloons when they were no longer flyable and as a result, they came into our care and are now stored in our barn. Read more

Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ February Fun In The Sun Over Berkshire And Oxfordshire

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

February 2012 will be remembered as the month that couldn’t make up its mind. Two weeks ago and there was snow on the ground, gritting lorries working over-time and temperatures plummeting a long long way below zero.

Fast forward, and we were looking at an unseasonal heat wave. A large area of high pressure dominated the weather charts pushing temperatures in the high teens, two or three times the season average, and bringing settled, sunny days and clear overnight skies. The perfect ballooning weather. Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ The Brrrrr-fect Way To Start 2012!

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

It is possible to fly a hot air balloon throughout the year, flying is simply controlled by the weather. As a result, you won’t see many hot air balloons flying during the winter months simply because the weather is usually unsettled bringing high winds and rain. However, from time to time, a high-pressure system will arrive over the UK plummeting the temperature, bringing overnight frosts, low lying mist, and light winds.

While few and far between, winter flying can be visually one of the most beautiful conditions to fly in, and so with a small ridge of high pressure covering the UK I jumped at the chance to fly and get 2012s flying underway. The other nice thing about winter ballooning is that, due to the lack of thermal activity, you don’t get the gusting winds during the day that you get in the summer. This means that you can fly at virtually any time of the day, or go for a longer flight than normal. Read more

Flight Report: G-CDYL ~ Jo & Ben Fly Over The Thames Valley

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

The weather recently has been rather confusing. At a time of year when people start to think about putting the heating on in their houses and digging out that winter blanket the UK has been basking in a true Indian summer. With beautifully clear blue skies and high pressure bringing light winds and perfect balloon conditions to the area, there have been ample opportunities to take to the skies.

During the summer an old school friend had contacted me to ask whether it would be possible to surprise her boyfriend with a flight for their 1 year anniversary. The weather annoyingly didn’t play ball and as a result, high winds and rain put pay to being able to fly them on the actual day. Read more

Flight Report: G-ODAD ~ Keeping It In The Family

Posted on by 5WC in Hot Air Ballooning

One of the most commonly asked questions you get as a balloon pilot is simply “How did you get into ballooning?”. I have an equally simple answer – my father, James, is also a pilot! I grew up going ballooning with my dad. Becoming more and more passionate and, to some extent, obsessed with each passing flight.

My father now flies for fun rather than commercially enjoying what he describes as his “ballooning retirement” flying family and friends, while also helping people learn to fly in his role as a BBAC appointed Instructor.
Read more