Balloon Repair Station

News 25.06.13.

Low Flying – Watch out the CAA are about

Ove Dahien Sweden In case you missed the last News Update the CAA has released a timely and cautionary reminder to all AOC (Balloons) holders, all CPL(B) holders and all PPL(B) holders concerning low flying, or rather, not low flying. Best pay attention then.

There has recently been a number of either complaints or incidents brought to the attention of the CAA concerning alleged low flying, particularly with regard to flights over congested areas. AOC holders and pilots are reminded of the need to be completely familiar with Rules 5 and 6 of the Rules of the Air Regulations. All licensed pilots should understand the 500’ Rule and the 1,000’ Rule and there should be no confusion between the two.

The 500’ Rule does not apply when taking-off or landing in accordance with normal aviation practice, however there is no such alleviation from the 1,000’ Rule. There is the Congested Area Take-off Permission (subject to compliance with stated Conditions), but this does not apply to landings. Only if a balloon is becalmed may the 1,000’ Rule be departed from in order to achieve a safe landing.

Exemptions from the Low Flying Rules may be possible by way of individual written applications to the CAA on form SRG 1304 ( Such applications do attract a fee per application. Should the Rules of the Air Regulations be departed from without a prior approval, a written report must be submitted to the CAA.

The 500 feet rule

Except with the permission in writing of the CAA, an aircraft shall not be flown closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.

The 1000 feet rule

Except with the permission in writing of the CAA, an aircraft flying over a congested area of a city town or settlement shall not fly below a height of 1,000 feet above the highest fixed obstacle within a horizontal radius of 600 metres of the aircraft.

SRG 1304 is a ‘Special Events and Unusual Aerial Activity Application Form’. This form is used to notify the CAA of any Unusual Aerial Activity or Special Event requiring an Exemption from the Rules of the Air or Air Navigation Order. For all Flying Displays open to the public, please use CAA Form SRG1303 (These forms can be completed online, printed and submitted as instructed). The application is unlikely to be granted for unspecified low flying unlike good old Swedish Saab test pilot Ove Dahlen who was actually granted permission to fly between houses to demonstrate the amazing capabilities of the Malmo MFI-9B.

Check this site out, brilliant.

Happiness is a new balloon – G-CGIG goes east

G-CGIG Mark Stokoe & kidsAlways nice to see a happy pilot. Having unfortunately failed Mark Stokoe’s old balloon a few months ago he has scored a fine hit and managed to ‘win’ G-CGIG a Lindstrand LBL 90A built for the charity Fly Me Home in 2009 in the Go Ballooning auction which meant he could return John Viner’s old Lindstrand that he’d been kindly leant. He’d dropped it in the day he collected it from Pewsey and we had a jolly good look around it back in May. With exceptionally few hours on it is in very fine condition. It is beautifully made and has a very striking design featuring the London skyline. It was originally commissioned by the homeless charity, Film It.

Fly Me Home was promoted as an exciting new venture in which homelessG-CGIG take me home and vulnerably housed young people would make, build and fly a hot air balloon to raise awareness of the growing number of people without homes in the UK. The project was launched on 11th December 2009 with a tether outside St Pauls Cathedral in London where it was blessed by the Dean of St Pauls in preparation for a flight across the Capital the following spring. A ten pound donation to help young people back into education, training and employment gave supporters the chance to win a ride and write a message on the balloon itself and indeed many of the panels have scribblings from well-wishers on them. The charity, with Sandra and Phil Hossack listed as trustees, existed until 21 February 2012 when it was removed from the register. G-CGIG launchFly Me Home Ltd, of which the Hossacks were directors, was dissolved in May. Mark checked out the website address on the side, found it was still available and managed to get it registered to him so a fine result.

The images on it include the London Eye (or whatever it is now), St Pauls, Nelson’s Column, Tower Bridge and The Dome or O2 thingy. I expect you could always add the Shard. Once it was deemed all lovely and super Mark popped along to his local park along with John Viner and gave rides to the local kids. Seems to us this stonkingly stunning balloon will be a very happy balloon (and pilot).

Ahoy There Pirate Meet cancelled.

The Hastings’ Pirate Day Flyout, which we thought sounded smashing, has been cancelled. It seems that there has been insufficient interest from balloonists so sadly its no longer a go-go but the The Car Fest is on 23-25 August and although fully booked (six balloons were invited) just in case like contact

Virgin pilot discovers Gannet T5

Fairey Gannet RAF ErrolVirgin Balloon Flights’ pilot Martin Cowling sent us this picture of a very sad Fairey Gannet T.5. spotted on the edge of the former RAF Errol airfield near the north bank of the River Tay in Scotland where he landed the other morning. RAF Errol is shrouded in mystery, and quite often mist. Built as an RAF airfield in 1942 it was home to No 9 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit and the secretive 305 Ferry Training Unit, formed in January 1943, to train Soviet aircrew on the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle for delivery to Russia. The first 11 Albemarles flew across the North Sea to Vnukovo airfield on March 3, 1943 one being shot down by an enemy fighter and one missing without trace. Deliveries of the 200 Albemarles ended in September 1943 when Russia opted for the American-built Douglas Skytrain, however training continued until April, 1944. The base remained operational until July 1945 when it closed completely however questions were asked later about its suitability as a Cold War base, in a roundabout sort of top secret way.

This sad old Gannet was built in 1956 and entered service as XG882, the very first T.5 variant, and served at RNAS Culdrose from 1959 then joined 849 NAS for several years before being upgraded and returned to service in 1966 at RNAS Lossiemouth (still with 849 NAS). She retired in 1976 and used as a fire practice airframe until 1982, when the remains of XG882 were combined with XA463 and she became the RAF Lossiemouth gate-guard. When she was finally stood down a Morris Leslie purchased her as an attraction for the Errol Sunday Market. Moves have been made to rescue the remains but all attempts so far have failed. Apparently there is also a Blackburn Buccaneer and a vampire elsewhere on the old airfield. The expected development of the airfield for housing and light industrial units means that it is likely to disappear altogether in the near future.

With folding wings the Gannet was a monster aeroplane and a very successful carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the postwar era. It had a crew of three and was powered by a double Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turbo-prop engine driving two contra-rotating propellers through a gearbox one of which could be shut down in flight to increase the range. “Ere’ Martin, are you going to put in a bid for it?”

Jonathan Trappe to Cluster-Balloon across the Atlantic

Jonathan TrappeHaving conquered the Channel that adventurer Jonathan Trappe is now about to cross the Atlantic under N878UP his ever evolving cluster balloon. Fresh from his website the mission is set to go from 1st July, the window closing on September 30th. Working with the lead meteorologist, Don Day, he reckons they will have about 7-days indication of a favourable weather system and then about 3 days to set the date.

From his website the current report makes interesting reading. From the launchsite in Caribou, Maine he explains that he is ever-closer to the first trans-Atlantic cluster balloon flight. Aroostook County has been the historic jumping off point for successful trans-Atlantic gas balloon flights from the USA but so far there have been only been two, Double Eagle II in 1978 and Kittinger in the Balloon of Peace in 1984.

Jonathan explained that ‘It is an honour to put up our flight from Aroostook, and from the community of Caribou, the town that hosted the last straight gas trans-Atlantic flight from the USA. Driving up Main street in Caribou, you pass Kittinger Avenue, and the launch site of that great flight. To anybody that says there are no Caribou here, I saw one sticking his head through a wall, he eyed me in this uncanny, unblinking fashion. The helium was bought in bulk on the open market in liquid form from Tennessee. In that format, the helium is something like -452° Fahrenheit which is not particularly useful for manned balloon flight so, the helium was moved to the vaporisation facility and over the past two weeks it has been compressed into individual cylinders. So far the 192 tanks have been filled and are being trucked up to the Presque Isle warehouse next week where they will be joined by the second batch the week after.

There are two types of balloons in this cluster, to account for the different characteristics of the materials of which they are made. The ‘latex’ balloons are UV sensitive, and will start failing during flight, especially if I am flying at 18,000 feet in the intense UV environment. The second type of balloon is not UV sensitive, and they are more rugged but, they don’t dilate as well, and they are expensive. We had to cut back on this type of balloon, for budget reasons, but I believe we will still have enough to survive the crossing. The full set of balloons were due for delivery on June 20th.

Nearly all the equipment is either in-place, or on-order and was due by the 21st June.

Talking with locals about what -20F really means (the temperature Col. Kittinger encountered on his flight), and the gas ballooning family Eimers, encouraged me to add a severe low-temperature suit to which has arrived and should help maintain life in those sub-zero conditions additionally, the coldwater survival suit designed to help protect me in the event of a water ditching has also arrived. The first 1,000 pounds of ballast has been loaded into colour-coded sand bags (green, yellow, red.) The remaining 140 bags are being made in Pennsylvania, and will be filled after delivery. The ballast is sand mixed with salt, so that the sand doesn’t freeze at altitude and turn into blocks that need to be chipped off with a knife!

We will need 50 people to help with the launch and we would like the hands of the Mainers on the aircraft. I’ve contacted several groups to develop the inflation team, including the volunteer and full-time firefighters of Caribou, the Rotary clubs in the area, the Civil Air Patrol, the Micmac tribe, local balloonists, and others. I don’t have a count of confirmed crew yet, but I am working towards that. It is one of the things that keeps me up at night. Everybody says “don’t’ worry, you’ll have plenty of crew.” But, to have any chance of a successful, breathtaking launch, we need 50 people that will show-up on the launch field at 7pm, inflate cells, and help stand up the aircraft!

Conversations have been ongoing on the required position reporting to Gander and Shanwick during the crossing. The simplest summary is that we will remain below FL250, which provides 3,500 feet vertical separation from the lowest of the trans-Continental North Atlantic Tracks that jetliners traverse. Trans-Atlantic balloon flight in the NAT regions is specifically allowed for in ICAO documents (NAT DOC 001 and NAT DOC 007), and we’re working with controlling authorities to ensure a protocol is developed to allow for safe, legal, inspiring flight!
Main site Channel Crossing across the Alps ahead of Gordon Bennett Race Video Channel crossing

Happy Pork Pie at The White Swan Wendover

happy pork piePork Pie Friday has now become a bit of an institution at the White Swan in Wendover. Started accidently by our man Barry because he was hungry it has now developed into a regular Friday early evening event with pork pies getting brought in from near and far along with a very decent selection of condiments. It usually coincides with Happy Hour (5.00-6.00) and is open to all. Amongst the visitors last week was this rather jolly happy smiling pie from Pork Farm Pies who once owned a balloon which is still flying as Jamie Edwards ‘Molly Mae’. There was much discussion whether or not it should be spared but in the end it just begged to be eaten, so it was.

Sharing travel costs to Todi

Someone who gate-crashed Pork Pie Friday, Dave Jenks, and proceeded to block in the barmaid with his mighty V-dub is offering a seat or two to Todi in return for a share in the cost of getting there. He explained that the idea is for anyone who would like to travel to and from Todi to share the cost of travel. The event is for two weeks. He is not necessarily looking for crew but for anyone who wants to join up with his team independently. He appreciates that Metz is just around the corner so he could drop anyone who is interested at Metz on the way back. If you are interested call Dave Jenkinson Mob: 07774 265 242.

Spotters flock to see G-CDST

Ultramagic 250 G-CDSTWord got out that we were inspecting the ex-Go Ballooning Ultramagic G-CDST at the Black Horse and as a result we ended up with a load of help to pack it away. Many thanks. Kim Hull of Adventure Balloons purchased the complete balloon through the Go Ballooning auction and wanted it inspected prior to possibly moving it on. Rumours were that he was selling the envelope to Turkey so it may not be seen here again. Team Zebedee had a meeting at White Waltham and also needed to collect some burners and cylinders so we gave Pete Bish the nod and lo’ and behold a whole battalionUltramagic 250 G-CDST inflating turned up to take piccies and note registrations amongst them the famous most Old and Rusties Mike Drye. The envelope needed a few bits and bobs attending to but all in all it seemed in very good condition. The basket had had a fair bit of new hide applied but generally the bottom end, including a set of triple Shadows, was fine as well. Not a bad result and we even found a pound coin. Luckily for Kim one of the four 80 litre cylinders had about 30% of fuel in it, just enough for Justin Moore to gallantly stand the old girl in the breeze long enough for us to have a good look at the deflation system and pictures to be taken. With its band of gold it is very Turkey.

Lancaster bombs John’s house

red arrows wendoverAs part of the Queen’s Birthday Flypast the whole lot flew over RAF Halton and, as usual, some of the participants decided to carry out impromtu flypasts. These days the Rothschild-built Officer’s Mess often hosts guests from Chequers so we get our fair share of visits from aircraft various giving displays. This was no different and we watched a Jet Provost complete with wingtanks carry out a great aerobatic display just prior to the arrival of the first aircraft. The Red Arrows swooped across the village trailing smoke, like they do, and helicopters and the heavier stuff rumbled over with a sole Tornado breaking away and behaving badly. Highlight was the Lancaster though that dropped down below the rooftops straight over John’s house (luckily he was away) and beat up the airfield and Officer’s Mess. Unfortunately it was so low we couldn’t get a picture but Dotty barked a lot.