Greetings pop pickers and a very warm spring-like welcome to you. Thanks for dropping by. If you are here on the pretext that you thought we offered cheap balloon flights, apologies but we don’t and would direct you to our Page on ‘Ride Operators’ to your left. What we do is look after the airworthiness and mend all types, shapes and sizes of hot air balloons along with all the paraphernalia that goes with them. We loosely refer to it as a job but actually it isn’t really, its just something we enjoy doing. Its true to say it is very seasonal and this season has been no different but things are stirring, the fields are drying and the passenger balloons have been dusted down and we hear some are flying. Likewise as the weather improves and everyone that has gone off for a long weekend flying in Europe is now fed up with cold and snow so they are now settling into a bit of home flying again. What is nice is that private ballooning seems to have had a happiness injection and with the delay in EASA regulations coming into force for balloons it seems there may be a simpler way forward and if you need convincing it seems that the long lost Eastern Region has been reformed. What is always nice are the people that call by with stuff to inspect, mend or, as does happen, just socially. Last week we were rather honoured to have, as it turned, out some real oldtimers. Now you seldom think about when people first got into ballooning but we had Norman Apsey and Pat Atkins, Rob Fuller and Tony Gould call in. They all got into ballooning between about 1973 and 1976 so within two days we’d had about 160 years worth of experience through the doors. Naturally we poured ourselves a drop of something and sat with the chickens and mused over the facts. Quite nice and a privilege to know them we deduced. I was invited up to the North West Region to have a chat about caring for your kit, which was most enjoyable albeit a jolly long way. Apologies for immediately upsetting the Viva and Concept owners but there you go. It was great to catch up with Bob ‘Holker Hall’ Jones, another pilot from the mid-seventies who was in fine form. Then we had a BBAC Inspector Day at Stratford-upon-Avon which was actually a fine day out. We did a bit about baskets and got the age of some fabric wrong. Good to see Mr Chadwick and Mark Shortman from the CAA there and to catch up with Mucky Busemeyer from GEFA-FLUG, who I haven’t seen for ages.
In the rest of the stuff this time round we have updated and more fully reviewed the latest Flight Manual updates from Camerons. As usual we have repeated the News Updates in the News just in case you missed them. There is also news on a variety of stuff this time including the sale of Aerosaurus Balloons to Clive Bailey’s Bailey Balloons which will make his company the biggest in the West Country. Cameron Balloons have appointed Craig Moore as their new Sales Manager. Jane went down to the British Balloon & Airship Club (BBAC) AGM and stimulating a report should be about somewhere. Congratulations to Don Cameron and Robin Batchelor for becoming the new President and Vice-President of the BBAC. Bit of sadness in that Dolly the barmaid passed away. Last year we were celebrating her hundreth birthday about now and featured her in the article Dolly Days and Balloons - Black Horse Easter Meet. She took the day off to be there! On very happy note Steve Farrant called by and regaled us with tales of his flight around Britain in his 1944 Taylorcraft Auster. It was great and he has very kindly let us have a copy of the article he and his Brother-in-Law wrote about it so look out for Tales of Two Old Men (and an even older Auster) - Flying the British Coastline. Also in the running is an appraisal of the old Skyhopper bottom end we did for Steve Roake’s very popular online Hopper News.
Still not much to report from the deep dark barn but Barry has galvanised himself into sorting out the Moto Guzzi California he purchased in an attempt to make it go rather better than it doesn’t! To that end the carbs are now in pieces and have gone away for cleaning, meanwhile Pete Brown has been convinced that the Avon SM look-alikes made for a Russian sidecar do really need replacing on his rather nice BMW, 'The Kaiser’ as it is affectionately known. Project old man’s house is coming to an end and we are really getting good at installing toilets so if it all goes Pete Tong then we have a future. The trusty Toyota Pickup has decided to leak from the fuel pump so that will be getting some tlc in the very near future. I don’t get it, 300,000 miles and its leaking diesel. Still runs fine though! A common fault apparently! I am starting to worry what will happen at half a million miles now. Right, enough of this drivel, please feel free to wander around. If you want to see the pictures somewhat larger most will get bigger if you click on them. Thanks very much for visiting, here’s to happy Springtime flying. Front page picture is Steve Farrant's Auster in formation with a D-day marked one over Goodwood. Oh yes, nearly forgot, I had a haircut so I don’t scare the grandchildren anymore! All the best from Dotty, John, Jane, Alice (due April I think) and Chris.