I've been involved with Sport ballooning since the mid 1970's when it was quite rare to see them and crowds came out of the hedges to view the landings in the most desolate areas imaginable. From crewing on the early rip-top vent craft (Granau G-XFOX), to drifting over the Northern Thai plains villages in Heart of Gold (read the Journal) its been (forgive the pun) a gas. Some of the nicest people I know have been in the sport. The vast majority of them have nothing to prove to the world or each other and so get on with everyone. One of them is my old instructor - click here for a flying shot of him.During November 2000 in Ronda, Spain I completed my PPL(B) and R/T licences and now have my own Sky 90/24 balloon G-BXLP, Heart of Gold. We flew her in Thailand in January and December 2001, February 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007. Also she has flown in France, Croatia, Sri Lanka in March 2005, Dubai in 2006 and Thailand in 2008. In 2008 she was joined by G-CFAY Brillig, a larger Sky 120/24 for a special wedding meet in Chiang Mai that requires pilot, crew, bride & groom, witnesses and journalist/photographer. She is more used to Alpine conditions.... Picture Chateau D'Oex, Switzerland
An opportunity to aquire the one-man balloon G-CFPS Bree, a Sky 25/16, arose in June 2009. This was the small sister to Brillig and was one of three Sky envelopes made in these colours. (The largest one is now in Turkey).Seen here on only her second free flight (and mine as well in a hopper) at Metz 2009. The most fun you could have with your clothes on!
In recent years I've been "adopted" by my good friends Tom & Marija Miklousec of the Balon Klub Zageb and I have been able to spend some time with them each September helping out with flying Club passengers in a variety of balloons in Zagorje which is the area to the west and north of Zagreb. It is a beautiful area to fly - you should go and see for yourselves!. As a Club pilot (and an honorary VP of the Club) I appear in their extensive photo gallery collection. On this site you will also find the Balloon Flight Simulator written by my good friend Tomislav Kristov. I recommend it - having seen the detailed coding that went into it is an extremely accurate model. I wondered why his brother, Bojan, was so good on the burners this year: it seems that he also plays it..... Igor, Davor, Marina, Tina, Dino, Medoc, Ante, Josep, Slatko, Iness, Dubrovca, you all make the time go far, far too quickly!
It's a wonderfully eccentric sport. Did you know that the British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) currently hold the World Record for the "maximum number of simultaneously inflated man-carrying balloons within a fixed structure"? I was there, February 15th 1997, at No.1 Shed at Cardington Bedfordshire. 87, if memory serves!
The wildest times were the 1980s, when I was part of the Kodak Nationals
Team. As a Competitions Club observer (each team must provide one) I
qualified and got my badge that allowed me to officate at International
level. It sharpened up surveying and navigation skills - grid positions to
5 places on markers in the middle of muddy fields, using your stride
length, compass and map - and all this before GPS systems were available!
Of course nowadays...(insert rant here).
Details of adventures in Thailand can be read here if you are interested.
There is a short article about a trip to Le Puy en Velay (November 2004) here
A letter to a much-missed family friend about one of the many ballooning trips to Croatia (2006)here.