Balloon Repair Station

News 22.12.2019

What happened there then?
The last posting of news here was back in April 2019 so it doesn’t take much to figure out that a lot has gone on since then. In the Pages bit the 2019 ‘Events’ have all been an gone, even the ones the weather got the better of, and there were a few of them, including the Behemoth that is Bristol. We have updated the Events now as best we can but as dates are not yet confirmed for many of them so yet more will follow. If you have an event or know of something going on of interest, doesn’t have to be ballooning related, please let us know. Sadly circumstances meant that we didn’t get to any meets in 2019 apart from The Icicle where I ended up crewing and missed catching up but this year we are intending to be there on the Saturday at least whether it rains, snows or is gloriously overcast! We'll bring Pete.

There have been a fair few updates in the Airworthiness/Safety Bulletins, including one, AD 209-0245 issued in October concerning Schroeder FB6 and FB7 Schroeder burners. The controversial Cameron SB27 10 year lifing of hoses remains Highly Recommended and fortunately not Mandatory. No doubt this will become compulsory by default in their next edition of the Maintenance Manual which is due out soon but who can tell? Type Certificate Data Sheets (TCDS) continued to be amended and added to. We did strive to keep all these sections current but if we have missed some please let us know. We do try to check the status and update weekly at the latest.

On the general airworthiness front the Self Declared Maintenance Programme has been applied to all the balloons that we ‘look after’ and that are able to use them. I don’t think anyone understands what they are but suffice to say it does mean that if you have one than you can carry out Pilot Approved Repairs as set out in the appropriate manufacturers’ Maintenance Manual and release your balloon back to service in the logbook. You do need to produce them at the annual inspection, regardless of who issued them, so keep a copy with the logbook please or in your document bag.

Much, everso, mainly what has been expressed by our customers about the minimum equipment requirements as produced by EASA and what needs to be inspected at the annual has caused consternation but....... To reiterate, we have adopted the approach that if it isn’t in the appropriate manufacturers’ inspection schedule then we do not inspect it and then only in accordance with the requirement stated therein sort of thing. We did do a piece on Peace and Love, what’s in your basket Tom Cobbly? – Minimum Equipment. Back in April that covers the subject and which we will (may have by now) updated. If you are in for an inspection we do have hard copies that we hand out effectively fulfilling the requirement to issue as much paperwork as possible. We regard the EASA version and the manufacturers’ minimum equipment requirements as operational and, unless specifically listed in the Annual/100hour Inspection Schedule, not subject to inspection however if you choose to fly without the minimum equipment items then you will not be meeting the requirements and may be infringing the legislation so as to speak sort of thing. Right moving on rapidly…….

HS2, Brexit and all that
Following the result of the General Election we will be leaving Europe and with the grand majority the incumbent Government now has, legislation surrounding the exit is likely to ensure that finally it is going to happen. With regards to EASA and the CAA all is far from clear but it is doubtful that EASA will go away in relation to the UK. Certainly on a recent visit to the CAA at Gatwick in connection with the exciting Part 66 rating for balloon inspectors it was evident that a large area, currently unmanned, has been set aside for some sort of expected changes and possibly transition in the event of a ‘No Deal’ exit. Presumably any ‘Deal” will incorporate continuing in EASA in some form or other. As EASA is EU Parliament led then quite how that will be reflected, if we don’t have a say, I have no idea. News then that there is no news apart from the tumult of notices on the CAA website which amount to ‘what if, maybe’ question and answers. We will have to wait and see what does transpire. On the licensing front I admitted defeat some years back and survive by reading stuff posted by the British Balloon and Airship club which we report here from time to time. I personally have no plans to become an EASA balloon license examiner but will possibly continue as a UK PPL(B) examiner. This year I haven’t carried out any check flights and I think only a couple of re-validations so may well hang up me examining socks altogether.

As far as we can anticipate Easy Balloons and the Repair Station will continue as we are having, or maybe have had, our lease extended by HS2 for another two years with a six month break clause, we think, as they are already a month overdue with the actual signed lease (hey ho nothing remarkable there then) so fingers crossed. We can't pay them any rent as it will returned until the Lease is issued and you wonder why it is so over budget! We have no idea whether HS2 will go ahead or not, just depends on whose report the Government listen to. All very politic. We see on a daily business the overspend in action. Six men and seven vehicles to do some fencing the other day. Amazing. We’ll write a book on one day. Best thing so far is the action at Great Missenden to cut down trees then the blank hoarding around the HS2 site was decorated with posters of…..trees. You can’t make it up!

https://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/About-us/Brexit/

Ross Powell retires - A Huge Thankyou
A really big belated thank you to Ross Powell who decided to hang up his grab tester and retire from inspecting balloons. Ross has been an inspector for many years and looked after many balloons in his area and beyond. His services will be sorely missed by all. We’d like to thank him for all the support and help he has given us. We understand he and his 2CV have migrated to Glastonbury so he can get free tickets to the Festival. Good on you mate and thanks again. Peace and Love.

End of an era - Graham Hallett retires as BBAC CTO
Seems unbelievable that Graham Hallett has been the British Balloon & Airship Clubs’ Chief Technical Officer for over 11 years. In that time he has seen the Technical Office move into EASAland and more additional paperwork and procedures than you can shake a tree at to swamp ballooning. All this he has accomplished pretty much unaided. We all owe him a huge thankyou. His replacement is Glenn Everett who arrives with the task of moving the BBAC into a new chapter of EASA craziness. We wish him the very best of luck.

Graham has sent out this note to all the Inspectors;

Dear Inspector,
Well, that’s probably the last time I’ll have to write that, I think I’m done. As you know I am standing down as CTO and Glen is taking over. Technically, I remain in post until the CAA formally approve our personnel changes, but Glen has been in post since the beginning of the month, so I think we may conclude the transition has occurred and I do not intend to do anything further from here on in. I’m sure Glen will do an excellent job as my successor.

On a personal note, I would like to thank you all for your hard work on behalf of the BBAC and in supporting me during my time in office (over 11 years, doesn’t time fly!). It has been a pleasure and a privilege, I have very much enjoyed doing this job and I know I shall miss it in the future.
May I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year and the very best for the future.

Kind regards Graham

PS, my personal email is graham@plasmadoc.co.uk for those who want it.

Falling out of aircraft consultation closes 17 January 2020
In true plenty of notice type way so as to avoid too many responses the CAA has given notice that 'Parachuting : Edition 5' is underway to update the parachuting stuff obviously. If you fall out of perfectly safe aircraft or lob parachutists out baskets its worth a look.

All parachute operations carried out from civil registered aircraft over the UK is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Parachuting (CAP 660) is a comprehensive source of information including rules, regulations and guidance on legal requirements for parachuting operations and displays. It was last published in 2008 and they are now consulting on a revised and updated edition. This new edition will be published in 2020 and includes some major changes to reflect new legislation and regulatory provisions.

The consultation for the revised edition closes on Friday 17 January 2020.
To respond to this consultation please send us your comments online using the link below (preferred method). Alternatively please email ga@caa.co.uk stating the paragraph reference and suggested change/comment.

https://consultations.caa.co.uk/ga/parachuting-edition-5-consultation/

SIB 2019-16R1- German Halon-free fire extinguishers
Issued on 20 December 2019 the Safety Information Bulletin refers to the removal from service of Umlaut Engineering GmbH (formerly P3 Engineering GmbH) manufactured hand-operated Fire Extinguishers and revises EASA SIB 2019-16 dated 27 November 2019. The affected extinguishers are those with a part Number (P/N) P3APP003010A and P/N P3APP003010C HAFEX (Halon-free) fire extinguishers, having a manufacturing date 03/2019, 04/2019, 05/2019, 06/2019 or 07/2019 with serial numbers as listed in Umlaut Engineering GmbH’s Vendor Service Bulletin (VSB) P3VSB000001, issue C dated 13 December 2019. These fire extinguishers are known to be installed on, but not limited to, Airbus A318, A319, A320, A321 and A350 aeroplanes; ATR 72 aeroplanes; Airbus Helicopters Deutschland MBB-BK 117 and EC135 helicopters; Airbus Helicopters AS 332, AS 365 and EC 155 helicopters; and Leonardo AW139, AW169 and AW189 helicopters but as in all things aviation some might have migrated, if you get me drift!

Occurrences have been reported of a quality issue on certain Halon-free fire extinguishers, manufactured by umlaut engineering GmbH (formerly P3 Engineering GmbH), where the spindle geometries of the extinguishers were found to be out of tolerance. In case of previous unknown prolonged exposure (12 hours or more) to high non-operating temperature conditions of more than 68°C, this manufacturing defect could cause a non-detectable seizure of the spindle that could render the fire extinguisher inoperative. Initial impact analysis identified that the affected batch is limited to fire extinguishers manufactured between March 2019 and July 2019.

This SIB is revised to include reference to issue C of the VSB, which includes an updated list of s/n. Risk assessment actions are on-going and, depending on the outcome, EASA may consider taking AD action(s) for specific aircraft types.

EASA recommends all aircraft owners, operators, maintenance organisations and manufacturers to identify whether any affected fire extinguisher is installed on their aircraft, or held in any spares inventory, and to remove the affected fire extinguishers from service.
This is information only. Recommendations are not mandatory.

For further information contact the EASA Programming and Continued Airworthiness Information Section, Certification Directorate. E-mail: ADs@easa.europa.eu.
For a copy of the VSB issue C, information on the affected fire extinguishers, or technical assistance, contact: umlaut engineering GmbH (formerly P3 Engineering GmbH), Blohmstraße 12, 21079 Hamburg, Germany, E-mail: air_hafex@umlaut.com, website: HYPERLINK "https://umlaut.com" https://umlaut.com.

Here’s a right laugh - CAA consultation on charges open
The dear old CAA have had these before and we have responded in the past but I have to say it makes not a jot of difference. They apparently welcome comments so I suppose everyone could flood them with requests that we want the lot for free (o:

Here’s their ‘Overview, roadmap steering group sort of thing’.

This consultation document explains our proposals for revisions to the existing CAA Charges Schemes, due to take effect from 1 April 2020. We believe our proposals represent a balanced approach to charging and we look forward to receiving feedback on these proposals, in particular from those regulated by us.
We welcome comments on all aspects of the proposals, including the charges structure and the level of the charges. Closes 7th February 2020. Yippee don't hold your breath. https://consultations.caa.co.uk/finance/caa-charges-2020-21/?mc_cid=7df5055872&mc_eid=5b3b56b6e7

Famous Phil becomes General Aviations’ ‘new champion’.
The look says it all. Congratulations to Phil Dunnington on his induction into the UK Government as the General Aviation representative and government advisor on relevant policies. In an official government press release they wrote under the title ‘General aviation’s new champion’;

Phil Dunnington, the first balloon pilot to cross the North West Arctic Passage, has been appointed by the Department for Transport as general aviation advocate to represent the general aviation sector and advise government on relevant policies.

Phil Dunnington: New advocate.
The announcement was made during a visit to Cranfield University by transport secretary Grant Shapps, who said the appointment was part of the government’s ambition to develop the aviation industry. Dunnington, currently managing director of an aviation consultancy for regulatory and accident analysis, will be responsible for championing and shaping the future of the sector. Shapps said Dunnington would represent general aviation on key industry boards, provide relevant independent advice to the government on key industry issues and provide an annual report to the government on the state of general aviation.

Aviation minister Paul Maynard said: “It’s vital we do all we can to promote and strengthen this brilliant sector, to solve some of the most pressing challenges and to continue in establishing the UK as a world leader in aviation.” Dunnington added: “I aim to establish a regime which ensures aviation serves all of the community working in partnership on airspace, the protection of airfields, the regulatory framework and policies that promote economic growth.”

If Mr Shapps and Aviation Minister Paul Maynard are really keen to ensure that they establish ‘the UK as a world leader in aviation’, maybe one of Phil’s first tasks will be to get on the case of the imminent closure of existing airfields and ensure support for the General Aviation Awareness Council’s (GACC) latest report under the heading ‘UK airfields face bleak future and need protecting’. The new report focuses on the continuing threat to facilities for light aviation around the UK. Strangely, this time last year (News 01.01.19) we reported that there was a new initiative to promote airfields supported vigorously by the All Party Parlimentary Group’s Grant Shapps when he said the same thing! The latest document lists developments at 39 airfields, most of which foresaw the land being taken over for other purposes. Among examples is Abingdon Airfield, earmarked for a ‘garden-village’ style development with 1,200 homes. At the former US base at Alconbury, the major part of the site is reported as already being developed with 5,000 new homes, while at Wethersfield, well-known to balloonists as it featured in the PPL(B) navigation exam, plans are afoot for a new prison and housing estate and are said to be under consideration. Closer to us, the already run down Wycombe Air Park faces the loss of a runway and relocation of gliding activities following plans for an industrial and warehousing complex on part of the site which has been approved by the council.

Phil was also welcomed in a speech by Grant Shapps entitled ‘An Electric Revolution in the skies’ in the following prose ‘So, it’s vital that we protect our network of airfields where so many aviation careers first take flight. That’s why I’m delighted to appoint today Phil Dunnington as our General Aviation Advocate’. As an afterthought, just heard tonight (shortest day), that Haddenham Airfield is about to disappear. You may not know this but it nearly became the premier motorcycle circuit after the war after racing ceased at Brooklands.

On a brighter note GAAC involvement seems to have helped at Manston, where the site owner applied earlier this year for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to retain the aerodrome as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. In response Thanet District Council’s definitive 2031 local plan now recognises the existing use of Manston as an airport and has provided for the DCO process to continue. Anyway I digress. A year on from the last Government and parliamentary pledges there is no change. Ah, there you go then but ‘Told you so’ in an annual report this time next year may be too late. I wonder what this years’ report says? We wish Phil the very best of luck in his new role and will follow developments with interest and his end of year report.

There is a brilliantly very interesting website documenting the history of Haddenham Airfield which you may find quite surprising. http://www.haddenhamairfieldhistory.co.uk/index.htm
https://www.wired-gov.net/wg/news.nsf/articles/An+Electric+Revolution+in+the+Skies+20092019131000?open
www.gaac.org.uk
https://www.btnews.co.uk/article/15498

Grassroots refunds
Following the sad news that Rob Cross decided to retire (well tentatively) from running the Grass Roots Meet a note was sent out to all participants which follows. Being the gentleman he is, all outstanding unused entry fees will be refunded, which I am sure has happened by now. If not please drop him a note.

Dearest Grass Rooters,
Firstly, I'd like to thank you for your support with Grass Roots over the past 10+ years. Without you it wouldn't be. Good news, there's some money coming your way, it's your refunded entry fee from Grass Roots :). It will help fund your recently acquired fire blanket or help to contribute to your new 8.33 Khz radio, or even part of your pilot restraint gizmo/turning vent decommissioning process. Grass Roots isn't necessary over, as I plan to run more events in the future. The ethos will remain unchanged

There are couple of ways that you can be refunded and my refunding preference is ordered as follows:
(i) Electronic transfer. Please forward your bank sort code and account number, the reference will be 'Grass Roots'. This is by fair the easiest and quickest method, and brings with it instant gratification
(ii) Cheque by snailmail. Please send me your address.

If you haven't responded to me by D-Day (6 June) I will send you a cheque to your address that I have on file.

Soft Landings
RobX

Interlude on account of a lot of stuff.
Scrolling down the rest of the stuff that is now too late or no longer of any relevance to bother with, and losing the will, now I will dive into the pile of accumulated piccies and other notes that are far more interesting than CAA publications, updates, EASA numbness and general politics that swum through the year. Right, hi-light and delete. That was good. Onwards and upwards in no particular order.

Instructor Training Days Announced
The British Balloon & Airship Club have announced the next Instructor Training Days as Saturday 14 March 2020 at Brackley and Saturday 02 May 2020 also at Brackley. These days cover EASA Part 1 (styles of teaching and learning) and will also include the latest information on transitioning to FCL/BFCL Licences for Instructors and Examiners. All Instructors and Examiners are encouraged to attend one of the 2020 dates for the latest information on training for the new licenses through the DTO (what’s a DTO I ask?). Instructors who attended in 2019 are welcome to attend just the Licence and DTO elements at 3pm. The venue is Egerton Hall, Juno Crescent, Brackley, Northants. NN13 6GN Please book through the BBAC Shop. www.bbac.org

Join the dawn patrol flying in a Spitfire
Yes really, not kidding. Brian Smith aka ‘Ginger's brought it’ is offering the amazing opportunity to take part in two days of flying in real time to 30 former WW2 airfields throughout each day starting at 0800 and finishing at 1900 on Saturday, June 20th and Sunday June 21st. Each sector will be flown by a different pilot in his incredibly realistic Spitfire simulator. All this will be to raise funds for the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice in the form of donations of £40 per ‘pilot’. This will get you a free training session in the simulator prior to the event and refreshments throughout the flying days.

As if that isn’t enough, for a further donation of £40 per person, on the Saturday evening at 19.30 a three course dinner starting with pre-dinner drinks, starters, main course, dessert plus entertainment provided by Peter Shade and Dad’s Air Force will be held! Dress code is period costume. There will be prizes! The only way to secure your place is by making BACS payment by 31st JANUARY 2020
BACS: Lloyds Bank. A/C: The Spitfire. A/C Number: 43487968.
Sort Code: 30-94-41. For further information or to get involved please email Brian briansmithair@uwclub.net or call him on 01403 700346.

https://www.thespitfireexperience.com/

Now that’s a dog friendly pub
Our local, The White Swan in the High Street often resembles Crufts but, thing is, the customers are often out-numbered by dogs. It’s a well known fact that most of the dogs that frequent the place have a bar tab but sadly none can pull a pint. My former collie Dotty was often behind the bar helping clear out the drip trays but Polly is not quite as fond of ale so its safe to put your pint down! Landlord Paul, the tallest man in Wendover, keeps a stock of dog treats, supplemented by the locals who often bring their own. Caught on camera is Barry the Aeroplane demonstrating how to control a wild pack of baying hounds.

Timbo Day celebrated
What a year for celebrating stuff it has been and we did manage to celebrate Timbo Day 2 properly. To ensure the day went with a swing we acquired not one but two portable record players circa 1960s, one of which turned out to be a natty valve model. Both needed a tad of tlc but were up and spinning in time to celebrate Timbo Day 2. Thanks to Barry for collecting one from somewhere in Oxfordshire and relocating the all important needle to its rightful place! Why the record player? Well we had to play Hawkwind’s Silver Machine whilst drinking champagne. It was a while ago now and I seem to recall that a couple of goodly folk dropped by in the course of the day, including Mr Attwood, along with Tim himself (who even brought along a bottle or two!) but apologies, who they were I can’t recall but I do reckon it was a chilly morning! It was held on 9th April marking the first flight of G-BSST from Filton. Tim was on route to Filton to take part in celebrations there and as it was also his wedding anniversary he had to get off a bit smartish! We had a jolly fine time and now we need to sort out if there is a Timbo Day due this year! Timbo Day 1 celebrated his record breaking flight across the Atlantic and we published Life in the Fast Lane - Concorde’s record breaking flight, somewhere on the webby site.

More on Freddie Laker
Following the bit on the new Freddie Laker Book we got a note from Paul Doyle who has written and published a couple of great books on vehicle air ferries. Air Bridge 1 covers the story of the civilian air ferry from 1947 to 1963. Co-written with David M Pugh it comprises 128 pages, 45 black/white photographs, details of the aircraft used, flight schedule listings, airfield plans, plus many appendices. Priced at £13.50 each (£15.00 by post) ISBN 09525 624 21. Air Bridge 2 covers the design, development and service use of the ATL 98 ‘Carvair’ conversions and their effect on the civilian vehicle air ferry era. It has 112 pages, 48 black/white photographs, prototype derivation and test flight details, type production, route maps, drawings and load sheets. £12.95 each (£14.50 by post) ISBN 09525 624 72.

Paul has also written ‘Fields of the First’, a history of WW1 aircraft landing fields of Essex, ‘Where the Lysanders were…’ The story of Sawbridgeworth’s (Hertfordshire), airfields from 1915 to 1995 and Aviation Memorials of Essex, a gazetteer of the memorials to feats of aviation in the County, and the story behind each.

For further details contact Paul A Doyle (Forward Airfield Research Publishing), 75 West Street, Bere Regis, Wareham, Dorset BH20 7HL. Tel +44 (0) 1929 472448 (mobile 07749 279457) or by email paul.doyle46@hotmail.co.uk.

John’s Jolly Tips
OK so John is big on the ‘No Knot’ and clipping flying wire karabiners onto scoop hooks but now it’s the Crown Line that gets his attention. He demonstrated this new approach to stopping the crown line getting tangled to Pete Bish who has taken it on board and trialed it extensively. Here is his report (Pete's obviously, not John's);

If you have had an inspection completed at Easy Balloons you may well have encountered John Yarrow's oft stated preference when finishing the envelope pack up. He maintains the pull up of the envelope bag top rope should start from opposite the knot rather than with the knot. Expect a deep drawing of breath if you get it wrong !

Last time we had a John inspection he introduced us to the 'Yarrow Rope Trick Number Two' !

How many times when packing an envelope after a flight have you coiled up the rope or plaited it neatly, only to find that next time you get the envelope out the crown line is twisted, knotted, tangled, under a loop of a crown tape - or you cannot find the right bit to pull to undo the plait, only to end up with all the above ?

John's method is simple yet seemingly untidy - but works. Once the envelope is 'sausaged up', lie the crown tapes on the envelope and haul the crown line in from the crown ring end, just creating a heap on top of the tapes. Then the clever bit ! When you get to the karabiner on the end of the crown line, hook it directly onto the crown ring, making sure you do not go under or over any rope or tape, then roll the balloon top as usual... Next time you use the balloon reverse the procedure. We practised this several times in Hungary recently and it works! Thanks John... Pete Bish

Snafu crew identified
One of the bonuses of writing up articles is the feedback we get. Just when its al gone quiet suddenly another touch from the past whizzes in. We were delighted to receive this from Rick Kacenski. We had not been able to identify the crew pictured and feared it was the one lost. To hear from a relation and have the crew's identities revealed along with the news that all but one survived the war was warmly welcomed. Thank you.

I had just happened across your 2014 article on the B-17’s named Snafu. At my desk I have the image of my Dad’s crew under the nose of SNAFU (complete with nose turret). He was with the 8th Air Force, 588th stationed at Knettishall with Lt. Sullivan most of his missions. His crew all made it through 28 missions except for the bombardier. They flew most of their missions on the SNAFU except when it was in the shop as I understand. Their last mission was on April 27, 1944 and my Dad told me that the new crew was shot down on their first mission on the SNAFU a few days later. The image I assume you had of the crew mentioned in your article was blank so I could not confirm it was the same one I have.

My Dad told me about a Stars & Stripes photographer taking a photo of their crew but he never saw it. I remembered that and on a whim a couple years back and I started to google SNAFU and such, and came across the 8th Air Force site. Knowing his bomber group and base I searched and eventually found the crew’s and plane's info by their pilot, Lt. Sullivan. Through that I found the plane/crew photo (instantly recognized my Dad just left of center), the back of the photo was also on the site and listed the crew by name, and a photo of the ground crew on the plane.

Crew of the 560th Bomb Squadron, 388th Bomb Group, beside the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Snafu”. England, 13 April 1944. Left to right: 2nd Lt. Leo W. Sullivan, Corning, Iowa; T/Sgt. John F. Belsey, New York, New York; 2nd Lt. John E. Turner, Wooster, Ohio; S/Sgt. Marion L. Kacenski, Maryville, Illinois; S/Sgt. Edwin H. Wright, Atlanta, Georgia; T/Sgt. Matthew S. Braniff, New Orleans, Louisiana; 2nd Lt. Ralph l. Campbell, Butler, Indiana; T/Sgt. Frank E. Waugh, Marshall, Texas; Sgt. Merrick J. Castille, Arnaudville, Louisiana.

Just wanted to share that with. Thanks for your article, I’ve enjoyed reading it and appreciate the research you’ve done. Cheers, Rick Kacenski, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Link to Article

Beg your pardon Mrs Arden
So what happens when a cylinder fails? Surprisingly you find it almost impossible to scrap them. Most scrappies won’t accept them, even cut in half, on account they think that they belong to the name cast onto them like beer barrels. Fair point. We have tried many a time to get the body that looks after scrap dealers to sort the problem to no avail. This particular cylinder is really very famous as its the very one that Ray Bailey and Alex Simpson throw out the basket after meeting a crane and ended up suspended from it. The incident became known as ‘The crane in Spain’. There was a film of the incident if I remember correctly. Might be around somewhere? Anyway the cylinder ended up eventually failed. We cut it in half and it languished as a stand in the workshop for ages until Tim Orchard spotted G-BJGK, the registration of ‘Dollar’ which was owned by his daughter Marie, scrawled on it. Hadn’t given it a thought! Dollar finally failed its grab test at 400hours, not bad for a Viva, and was de-registered in 2009. Its probably in Tim’s garage. Anyway the cylinder was rapidly converted to a rather splendid flower pot by his missus Trish. Lovely.

Just when you reckon you’ve seen it all
Now its all well and good to have an electric start on your fan but we had a puzzling moment or three when we found really badly decayed fabric on a balloon that came in for an annual. There was a lot of head-scratching when it was discovered that about the bottom third of the balloon was riddled with minute holes. The majority of the damaged panels were on the upper side. The fabric tore without the aid of a grab tester or thumbs. The perplexed and rather upset owners couldn’t explain it. They wondered if they had landed in an area affected by some sort of chemical spill, maybe, but couldn’t recall any flight that such an incident would have occurred on. It certainly wasn’t like that last time they got it out so must have occurred on its last flight which was at Longleat and they landed in the same field as other balloons which weren’t affected. We went through the book of really horrible sprays and couldn’t find anything. Then, thinking about it, they had an electric start on their fan which needed a battery to turn it over. Bingo. Leaking acid had been drawn through the fan and effectively sprayed into the envelope. This may not have been in one sitting but over a period of time. Sadly the damage was well beyond economic repair despite the balloon having an extremely sentimental value to the owners. So a word of warning that, if your fan has an electric start make sure the battery is well enclosed especially if it is of the ‘wet’ lead acid type. Theirs certainly is now!

And finally - Best year ever for funghi
Finally we have to say that hilight of this year has been the amazing profusion of mushrooms. The woods and fields have been full of them and we have seen some that haven’t been seen for years. Best of were the pretty blue Aniseed Mushrooms, these you can smell before finding them, great in stews. Then the Parasols kept us going for almost six weeks. We also discovered some mini puffballs that are good to eat when young but we found out too late this year (Jane frowned somewhat). They are pretty common so watch out for next. Giant puffballs were actually quite scarce so none of them. The season ran on and on and then just when you thought it was all over we had the most splendid show of Trooper Mushrooms. Polly is trained to find them now. These are large Funnel Caps, Clitocybe geotropa, and form long lines or huge arcs and circles some sites of which are over 500 years old. There is a row in France claimed to be 800 years old! These are edible when youngish but when young can be confused with less pleasant varieties. There is a Giant Trooper that is claimed to be edible but the taste is not and it can cause upsets!! The Trooper though is very hardy and can survive an early frost. Only in the past couple of weeks have the last fallen over and rotted. Sadly not found this year were any Blewits but the Field version does run on until January. Next up to go on the hunt for will be the St George’s Mushroom which will appear from April until June and isn’t easily confused with anything else until June!

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