Balloon Repair Station

News 29.11.14

Roger, what’s your Vector Victor? – Radiotelephony Manual updated
Amendment 4 to Edition 21 of CAP 413 Radiotelephony Manual was published on 16 October 2014, and became effective on 13 November 2014. Now if you frequently use the radio you may know it all but especially for those that only occasionally get to chat to Heathrow ATC asking to cross their zone then you really ought to refresh the phraseology and the order of things communications-wise. It is actually a good read so next time you are being chauffeured to the office or on the 5.15 have a read. The bits appropriate to balloons is pretty apparent. It can be downloaded free of charge by going to

Making a date with SERA
December the 4th sees the long awaited implementation of the SERA (Single European Rules of the Air) and the effect on aviators is, to put it bluntly, unknown. A right Royal mess will come into being on the 4th December as the CAA have applied to EASA for ‘a derogation from the rules’ but that won’t come into force until around the 16th December so if you are trundling about in unregulated airspace no one will know if you are breaking the rules or not as there sort of won’t be any until the 16th December. Tempting then? Brilliant planning on behalf of the CAA and the Government. Current thinking is that so many EASA members will be asking for exemptions or deviations from the rule which for us replaces the UK Rules of the Air that it won’t either be understood properly or change many aspects especially in Class G airspace like what we use. Unfortunately there were no representatives from the BBAC or the ballooning fraternity at the talks held between GA and the CAA back in October so quite how it will affect ballooning remains to be seen.

What! – CAA nearly stop Commercial Exams for balloons
According to those that plan such things in the CAA, and I’m sure the department has a fiscal study type of nonsense name, on account of the low numbers of balloon pilots wishing to get a commercial licence there were suggestions that the CAA would stop holding UK CPL(B) (the ‘B’ stands for ‘balloons’) exams at Gatwick but, mainly as a result of a tremendous amount of hard work by Ian Chadwick of the CAA and Kevin Meehan (the Chairman of the Panel of Examiners) who is now assisting rewriting the CPL exams with Ian, probably for nought, it is now back in safe hands for a few more years yet and it is expected that the CPL exams will still be held at Gatwick for at least another year probably on the back of other rating exams to keep it viable. The CAA will review the situation next year. Phew.

Breaking in – balloon (and pilot) lands in jail
Made us chuckle that we heard that our friend Dhawal Kedar, one of the pilots we checked out a couple of years ago in India, decided that the safest place to put down was the police compound when the winds changed during a flight over Pushkar, Rajasthan in India, during the Festival there. Apparently the authorities thought that the balloon was coming to rescue inmates from Ajmer jail but in fact, having tried to land in the police area, he ended up in the prison section. Sub inspector Hanuman Vishnoi said, “The pilot saw Anasager Lake of Ajmer, he tried to control the balloon and saw the ground of police lines to land safely.” The two passengers onboard, sisters from the West Indies, and the pilot were detained and questioned for two hours until it was established that there were no criminal intentions and that the landing was simply the safest option however a case was filed against the tour operator for “unlawful entry” into the jail premises and their licences revoked. According to news sources the two sisters were later seen taking an elephant ride instead. We’ll drop Dhawal a line for his take on it.

Blimey Ol’ Riley – Wobbly Wolstenholme is going, going, gone.
8 Colin Wolstenholme Riley MPH red hatSad days at Camerons for sure as Colin Wolstenholme, the man with the red hat, announces officially that he is retiring. Having been at Camerons for a very admirable 16 years and in the balloon business since Montgolfier switched to building hydraulic pumps, he has finally taken the bold decision to enjoy himself in pastures new. In a rather nice little note Colin explained that, ‘After working for Uncle Don for the past 16 years, I’ve now decided to leave his employment and to follow a new path. I will remain an active balloonist, Flight Examiner, Balloon Inspector, and Flight Instructor and one of my prime objectives is to retain a good working relationship with the Cameron factory. My last day in the Cameron office will be 10th December 2014 and if you need to contact me personally I can be contacted at I have enjoyed being part of the Cameron team, and would like to thank your for support over the years. The ‘Red Hat’ will continue to be seen at a variety of balloon events and race meetings both in the UK and Europe, so hopefully now I’ll be recognised as the ‘retired playboy’ I’ve always dreamed of being…!’ We thank him for his help and kindly service in the past and wish him all the jolly best of fun for the future.

BBAC AGM date announced
The date for the British Balloon & Airship club’s AGM has been announced as Sunday 8th March 2015 and will be held at the NFU Mutual Headquarters in Stratford-upon-Avon once again. This time round five officers are eligible for re-election with four remaining for another year those being Don Cameron, Ian Hooker, Paul Spellward and Ed Lubbock. Ahead of the AGM the next BBAC Committee meeting will be at Stratford on 20th January 2015.

Balloonists bound for Burma
2 balloons over baganWith a third operator starting a ride business in the Bagan region of Burma and the vast majority of UK ride pilots now spending the winter there it seems that the country is now amongst the leaders in offering tourists balloon rides. Golden Eagle, in conjunction with Peter Blaser a regular visitor to the country, is the latest company to be approved. In their first trial flights operating their three Ultramagic balloons, a ‘130, ‘210 and ‘250 they joined 18 other ride balloons, 12 from Balloons Over Bagan who have been flying there since 1999 and six from Oriental, set up with the help of Phil Dunnington in 2013. AOC-based Operations and standards are very strongly based on the UK system with flights generally being mornings only. Golden Eagle were expected to start operations on 25th November.

Atlas – new T in the sky
3 hercules c17 AtlasLook out for a new shape in the sky if you are trolling around Brize Norton. Airbus have just delivered the first 22 A400M transports. Named the Atlas it replaces the Hercules (link in the name there then) which has been in production for over 50 years. I remember building an Airfix kit of it. The A400M’s wings are primarily carbon fibre reinforced plastic just like the Hercules Airfix kit then and the impressive eight-bladed Scimitar propeller is also made from a woven composite material. The aircraft is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines, a joint project between MTU, Rolls-Royce and Snecma and first flew in 2009. A total of 173 are on order from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, Malaysia and the UK. The aircraft dates from the last century (that sounds wrong) and was formally announced in 2003 and first flying in 2009. Designed to carry 37,000kg it has has about half the capacity of the Boeing’s C17s that the RAF already have in service and considerably more than the 20,000kg the standard Hercules can carry. Its performance is pretty impressive with a range of up to 4,700 nm (8,700 km) at a cruising altitude up to 37,000 ft (40,000ft is possible) and a maximum speed of around Mach 0.72. At the other end of the scale it can fly at 120knots and 15 foot from the ground. Its cavernous fuselage can accommodate a Chinook. I expect Bishy will blag a flight in due course. For the impressive specs check out

New kid on the block – The Sackville Sailer
Following a tip off that Tim Wilkinson had been seen cutting lumps off of old tired envelopes a local person7 tim sackville 1 managed to get this picture of the prototype, third scale, Sackville Sailer balloon early one misty and calm morning. One of the Sackville Syndicate, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the fabric source wasn’t confined to old envelopes. They had recently discovered a couple of panels of nomex missing when they pulled their envelope out. On the face of it there did appear to be burn damage around the edges but they had no recollection of burning it but having seen Tim wandering around with scissors and a plumber’s torch a few days previously they now fear the worst. On closer inspection it seems that the design is a copy of the popular Concept envelope. Improvements have been made to the mouth. It has always been a puzzle as to why a balloon mouth is round when the basket is square. The flying wires appear to be some redundant electric fencing so should be cheap to replace. With one on each corner it will fit most small baskets easily. The burner, we can only assume, is the modified torch mentioned earlier. His assistant cannot be identified but Cameron’s Andy Booth denied that he either supplied the Concept plans or assisted in any way whatsoever, “Its more than me jobs worth,” he said when quizzed over the matter. “Maybe you ought to ask Colin? Did you know he’s leaving?” Whatever the truth it seems there is a new manufacturer waiting in the wings. Whether Sackville Lighter-than-Air Ltd go on to manufacture ride balloons remains to be seen but they have certainly produced a novel lightweight design and all in recycled fabric. Very green. Good on you Tim.

Stranger and strangerer – Strangers in trailer shock horror
10 Stowaways Chris monkMade us smile but the consequences could have been dire had not Chris Monk and his missus not checked their trailer on noticing the cover adrift. They had stayed over at the Calais Campanile Hotel prior to catching the ferry home at the close of their season flying passengers in Tuscany. Having been stopped once before and having the trailer searched then heeding the advice and recent headlines provided by lorry drivers (and his mum) when they noticed the Velcro on one of the compartments of the trailer wasn’t exactly sealed and the corresponding fastening clips loose but still secure they opened it up to investigate and discovered two young, potential illegal immigrants of African origin crammed inside. Chris said, “You can imagine our surprise. I just said, ‘Out! You two could have got me into a lot of trouble and cost me a lot of money’. Their body language just implied they were going to try again with someone else the next day.” They told the hotel about the incident but did not inform French police because, as Mr Monk put it, “That wouldn’t have achieved anything except making us miss our ferry.” He added, “I can see both sides. These people are running away from something awful. Once they’re in Europe they’ve escaped what they’re running from, so there should be a European-wide solution to help them.” Had the migrants been successful and been discovered by the Authorities then they could have been fined up to £2,000 and had their trailer seized. Lesson here then is to make jolly sure that there are not any unwanted passengers lurking in or under your trailer before you get into the docks.

Bath Balloon Festival details announced
Amongst one of the most prestigious balloon launch sites in the UK, The Royal Crescent in Bath, will play host to the The Bath Balloon Fiesta now confirmed as Friday 22nd to Monday 25th May 2015. Flying will once again be from the City of Bath parks together with The Royal Crescent. This is a really fantastic city to fly over if you have even the slightest architectural bent. To see the Circus and the Crescents from above is really the business. Numbers are limited. Details in the events page.

Cameron Advertise for new nice salesman type person
Following the retirement of Wobbly Wolstenholme Cameron Balloons Ltd has an opportunity for a highly-motivated sales person to join their experienced Bristol based Sales Team. Their circular describes the role as, ‘wide-ranging and varied and includes; Serving customer needs, Initiating leads, Responding to enquiries, Preparing quotations, Hosting international visitors & the Press, Assisting and representing the company at events, shows and balloon meets in the UK and around the world’. Cameron Balloons Ltd is on the look-out for a dependable, charismatic ambassador who has an extensive knowledge of ballooning with good product knowledge, is self-motivated, organised, has good language & technical skills and who is willing to travel and work weekends (time off in lieu) and most importantly is a flexible team player. In short we are looking for a brilliant ‘can do’ character. The application period starts on the 10th December 2014 (the day he leaves, can you believe that!) and the interview process will start in January 2015. If you feel you have these and other key skills and qualifications please email Nick Purvis the Sales Director with a copy of your CV

Close Shave – Gatwick to Newquay Service saved
I know it’s a bit off key but I like the thought of internal flights, as they are supposed to be known. It isn’t actually that long ago that I realised they even existed. Asked to do a job in Scotland I declined on account of the driving so they kindly flew me up there. Luton to Edinburgh, 50 minutes, high above the poor people on a stationary motorway. Magic. Anyway, point is that it great to hear that the Gatwick to Newquay Flybe service has been spared thanks to a four-year government funded £2.8 million cash injection with Cornwall council contributing £300,000. This will enable regional operator Flybe to keep operating three flights a week each way with two weekend rotations between the two airports. Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “The air link between Newquay and London is vital for Cornwall’s businesses, tourist industry and residents, so I created the regional air connectivity fund and fought for £2.5m for Newquay to ensure that this crucial service could continue.” The Regional Air Connectivity Fund, used to maintain regional air connections, was announced by the government in June 2013 and was doubled to £20 million per year in the 2014 Budget. Could be they have finally realised how vulnerable the rail link is? Rather unfortunately, a few days later a Flybe pilot operating the route was breath tested and removed from duty. Meanwhile Easyjet has just announced that they are to launch a direct service between Bristol and Gibraltar airport. Rumours now abound that Cameron’s Christmas Dinner may well be held on the Rock. Good old Danny Alexander we reckon.

One Man Meet and Ladies Meet Swap
13 O-31 hopper G-CIJJFollowing another wonderous One Man Meet this year, the 30th believe it or not, held in Clytha, Wales where this year, unlike the last, they managed to get airborne, Phil and Allie Dunnington announced that they would be handing the running of the event over to Wendy Rousell and John Tyrell with Marie Banks taking over the organisation of the Ladies Meet which usually runs the week before. Highlight of this years’ One Man Meet was the launch of the new lightweight Cameron 0-31 (G-CIJJ) which at an impressive 30.5kgs in the bag was well received. There is a great report on Steve Roake’s Cloudhopper News, Facebook group blog page thing, Newsletter 72 Sept-October 2014 which also includes a flight test in the new Cameron lightweight. (you will need to be signed into Facebook to see this content Jane tells me).

Fire & Snow Mauterndorf 2015 cancelled.
5 mauterndorf balloon meetThe popular Austrian meet known as Fire&Snow held in Maunterndorf, Austria has been cancelled. The local tourist office that organises it says gives the reason as ‘operational problems’. Whether it will return next year isn’t known. The meet often clashes with the equally popular Filzmoos Meet but this year they would have run within a week of each other and as they are quite close then it would have made sense to attend both if you needed an OD of mountains and snow. The good news though is that unknown to many Filzmoos actually has two meets. The 11th to 18th January is the DOPGAS balloon meet run by the tourist office and probably fully booked by now but another one, run by the hotel Hanneshof, takes place the following week 18 to 25th January 2015.

Julian Nott Skydive involvement
1 JulianNott with Alan EustaceYou may have seen and read all about the new world record altitude for a skydive by Alan Eustace well, it only turns out that our own Julian Nott has been the Senior Balloon Consultant for the entire three year life of the project and he managed to keep it quiet but that has now all changed and he has thankfully returned to his normal, modest and understated character. Julian dropped us a note telling us that, “I was the balloon consultant and invented the launch method for Paragon, the Prime Contractor. The project has been secret for three years but now it can be told! Alan Eustace parachuted from a helium balloon near the top of the stratosphere on Friday, October 24th, 2014. Falling faster than the speed of sound, he broke the world altitude record, jumping from 135,890 feet.”

To get the complete low-down on his involvement he invites one to “visit his website“. Just in case, like me, you are all muppetry about navigating around a website he kindly sent some more specific instructions. ‘Click on “Read More” top right to see about the skydive. From that page click on “To learn more click here”. In case you don’t spot him Julian explains, “You will find me half way down in the description of the team and there is a photograph of me with my arm up, just below the picture of two helicopters. If you watch the video I am just to the left of the base of the balloon at the moment of release. If you look carefully you can see me, I am the only person with an identifying belt at a diagonal. This video is particularly important to me. I devised an entirely new method of launching to give a gentle takeoff so it was safe for a person to fly under this kind of giant balloon: this one was 450 feet tall. I have had the good fortune to be involved in interesting projects but this was certainly one of the highlights of my career.”

Bits that nearly got away

What ho Dobbo – Getting the old girl inspected
9 basket-burner-inspection-easy-balloonsWebsite bloggit, 5WC, set up in 2010 by Chris Dodson has a very nice little article on it about the workshop and the process of inspecting balloons. Chris, who has been suffering from Anorexia Nervosa for a number of years, and which hasn’t done him much good, is now clawing his way back to normality. His blog makes interesting and sobering reading albeit with a splash of ironic humour, especially his take on his disorder. Clearly this is a very mis-understood affliction. It’s not often blokes are bold enough to admit to suffering from the disorder so fair play to him and even rarer that they sport a banner on their basket supporting Beat Eating Disorders.

Reporting on the Waterford Meet – The what?
Just in case you weren’t watching Irish telly’s Nationwide programme then here is a bit of a link to Joe Daly’s Waterford Meet, better known as the Irish Nationals, which one of these days we do actually hope to get to which this year attracted a lot of balloons and a lot of flying which for many who attended complained that, that was never the plan! Anyway the link is to a visit and flight by reporter Brain (Brian even) Walsh who took to the skies during the 44th Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships in the company of Joe and Stumpy the Pilot. The action starts about half way through. We liked Stumpy’s take on navigation.

Prompt action prevents cut fingers.
6 john Francis the zipWhen John Francis’s favourite lucky jacket’s zip handle pulled off after several years of adventures and hard use his missus very kindly, and somewhat beyond the call of duty, managed to get untangle a paper clip and poke it through the slider. Now this does work for a while but as any Health and Safety wallah will tell you (and was, allegedly, the subject of a CAA Information Bulletin some years ago) it is terribly dangerous with exposed metal threatening you all the time. “It could have your eye out in the event of a hard landing” said a CAA spokesperson adding, “ Unapproved repairs to zips has been a concern of EASA for some years now and a NPA is likely to be issued sooner rather than later.” Inevitable I suppose but we would just like to point out that if Tom Hanks hadn’t had one holding his flies together then Apollo 13 would never had made it back to Planet Earth. Be that as it may our John, remembering the CAA Circular, stepped in and replaced it with a suitably Form1 numbered special bit of red string. Mr Francis chose to keep the paperclip “Just in case I find myself in a low orbit!”

Just found this – Splat Pat
11 pat atkins MG balloonForgot this last time around. We had a surprise visit from Pat Atkins who we first met a long time ago when we helped rescue his balloon Red Pepper (G-BFNH) from a valley near Dunstable and would crew for when he was a thrusting competition pilot. As you can see from the picture the menopause has hit hard but could have been harder had he turned up in a Porsche! Only kidding this is a very fine example of an MGB Roadster. It has been built around a new Heritage bodyshell to a very high standard especially the seats and trim which are the best we’ve seen. Pat uses it quite a lot apparently. Its getting nearer and nearer the time we thought about holding an old and rusty meeting. After a nice chat, a cuppa and biscuit and we paid him the £20 we’d owed him for eight years he bade his farewells, put teddy on the dash, flat cap on his bonce and headed off into the sunset.

Getting her own back – Dotty takes selfie12 Dotty selfie
Its no secret that my dog hates cameras, even pretend ones, so it was with a fair degree of relief she didn’t spend the two days we were being filmed attacking the cameraman. Quite the contrary as it ‘appened and as a result we think she must have got a Pro-Go or compact camera or simply updated her phone as she sent Barry this selfie taken in the Swan. Clever dogs collies don’t you know.