The weather, early on, as we all know has been less than kind this year so the chances to get some shapes inspected had been few and far between but suddenly a smidgen of a possible weather-window opened and the grass at Black Horse deemed dry enough to drive on so we went for it. In the end we managed to inspect three shapes, the Light-bulb, now in the care of David Stagg, which we had done a fair amount of work on and needed new rotation vent lines, two of Andy Kaye’s shapes, the Orange and the new Doll balloon which no-one including Andy had seen and, if he could get the time off, Jamie Edward’s Battery. We also left a message for Chris Dobson who wanted Choc Dips looking at. It was looking like a busy day. Andy’s crew agreed to bring down some groundsheets just in case like! Jane put a thing on her Faceache thing saying we were getting the shapes out and all were welcome. Good move.
Come the morning Mr XC Weather’s prediction was spot on, the ground was firm and the winds light, although it was forecast to pick up a bit later. The sun was out and kites circled the field. Dotty set to barking at the moon and we rolled our sleeves ready for battle. Jamie couldn’t get the time off at such short notice and the Dobbo hotline was silent. No worries. First out would be the Orange.
Andy Kaye is probably best known for flying the Aston Martin Special Shape balloon. For some odd reason he seems to enjoy the rather bulky crew-hungry things and now also operates Action Man in association with Karle and Gaby Grunauer from Germany so, as if that wasn’t enough, he’d decided to get another one. His excuse was that he wanted something a bit simpler to handle! He purchased the Cameron Orange-120, G-CDXW, in September 2009 from Antonio Biasioli a friend of his from Italy during the meeting at Ferrara. Having very few hours on it and Antonio not being a pilot, it had not been flown for a while and Antonio felt that it really needed a new owner amongst his friends. Andy had a new scoop fitted as the original was missing and it was EASA transitioned in 2009. Checking back Andy discovered that it had once appeared at Metz next to the other Orange OO-BPO from Belgium which is very similar but couldn’t find out much else about it. Cameron built two oranges but the Belgian one now has in excess of 300 hours so its days are probably numbered. Since Andy acquired it the Orange has attended many meetings in Holland, Germany and Italy and was last flown in Israel in October 2012. It flies really well but has to be flown with a degree of precision as it only has velcros and a side dump. Now he has got hold of The Doll Andy is thinking about flogging it as he doesn’t reckon he will get much of a chance to fly it this year. “The upside of owning a shape,” explained Andy, “is that it gets you into all sorts of meets, often with at least your expenses paid.” Check out ‘Items for sale’ for the details. There is a bit of mildew here and there but it doesn’t smell and it is very localised. Andy says it has always been there. There doesn’t seem to be any real porosity and it packs away quite easily. At about 90 hours it is going to need the Velcro on the rip panel replacing soon but other than that it would make someone a straightforward simple shape.
The Doll, G-BVFD, a Cameron 105 Special Shape, serial number 3112, was a gem of a discovery by Gaby via a CAMO in Germany and had been acquired by a commercial operator in Germany as part of some assets they acquired and they didn’t really know what to do with it. It was originally built by Cameron Balloons in 1993 for Carrera Toys, a German toy dealer, and used as an 'executive toy' by those that had the money to fund it's expensive build. It only ever made a handful of appearances and was stored, apparently, like 'sleeping beauty' with less than eight hours in the logbook in Germany until its discovery. Rather long, very drawn-out, negotiations to buy it commenced in the Summer of 2012 and finally, in early 2013, a deal was struck. It ended up being a very satisfactory joint purchase between Andy Kaye and Karle Grunauer and will be based in Schwaebisch Hall, Germany, a good central European location. The Doll is currently being EASA transitioned and will commence a worldwide tour in the Summer with Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium, Germany and U.S.A. on the current programme. Andy pointed out that, sadly, as these shapes are very expensive to transport, maintain and require a large crew they tend to only travel to meetings where there is assistance with the expenses. In return the meetings use the Shapes to attract the crowds and, as the stars of the show, are often featured in the posters and press releases. Long gone are the days when Companies and Commercial Operators funded these costs and they just attended to get their brand seen in the sky and these days the costs are well outside most private flyers pockets. Unfortunately the UK balloon meets seldom have any budgets to entice the shapes in but having said that last year Bristol supported Karle and Gaby in bringing Action Man and Babybel over from Germany which then took to the Ashton Court skies to the cheers of thousands so who knows, maybe they’ll invite The Doll. Well it has to be said when The Doll stood up the Missenden by-pass came to a halt and there were plenty of spectators! Now it is a pretty impressive thing but we all agreed (including a small child that turned up with his dad) that it has a bit of scary face. What is certain is that it is seriously heavy but being a bit of a tube is not that bad to pack up providing you have enough willing souls. The construction is to the usual high Cameron standard. Goodness knows how they design these things never mind work out how to build them. They definitely don’t think about having to repair though and as is always the case repairs will never be cheap or straightforward. It usually takes longer to work out where the damage is and how to repair it rather than the repair itself. Although a bit across between Fairy tales Grimm and Pinocchio it will be a hit with the kids.
The Lightbulb G-LAMP, s/n 4899, was built by Camerons for Steve Lacey’s Norwich-based Lighting Store L.E.Electrical in 2000. Steve flew it gallantly it never clocked up many hours and last flew in 2006. Cameron’s had a field day when they built it and although it has to be said it is truly brilliant it is highly complicated with turning vents and a quick deflation system bunged in for good measure. The mouth is extremely complicated and easily burnt so inflating it in anything but a very gentle breeze with a decent fan is mandatory. We had to carry out quite a few repairs to the mouth and inner baffles following its last outing and it wasn’t easy. It doesn’t help that the control lines seem to be all over the place during the inflation so they are going to get burnt however careful you are. Closing the turning vents is a serious option. It is now in the now in the care of David Stagg who works for Steve at his new Norwich Lighting Superstore. While it was cold inflated and we were installing the new rotation vent lines we found ourselves engulfed by the most amazing ambience created no doubt by the colour. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a more peaceful balloon. We all agreed that it was really quite marvellous. Now if David can find a way to stop the narrow heavy mouth from getting burnt he will have a great balloon. It is also being transitioned so should be up and running by early May depending on the CAA’s performance!
As Jamie Edwards couldn’t make it we took the opportunity of getting Peter Lawman’s latest find, G-OAWS, a Colt 77A built in 1998 for RAC Auto Windscreens Ltd out as a finale. Peter is joining the Sackville Group and will be using a bottom end from the Club’s pool. When it was dropped off there was a definite not een used for a while odour about it but out of the bag we were pleasantly surprised and it was actually in fantastic condition. The artwork has all been removed and doesn’t show and the colours are good, he ought to get a lot of hours out of this. Nice one. Naturally being the last one up there were about 20 people to pack it up. Too many really.
As it ‘appened we were all grateful the other shapes hadn’t turned up, we were knackered. The Black Horse put it on their Facebook Tweet thing and got loads of hits. The passing trade mostly called in for a drink and we had just managed to get away with inflating the shapes each side of wet and windy weather. We all trooped into the bar for a well-deserved pint or two of Doombar. It was great to see so many turn up, thankyou. We’ll have to do it again. Next up will be Choc Dips and I suspect Jamie’s Battery and sometime we have to see what the Strawberry is like. A fine day Grommit.