Potted Balloon Biography. Almost 50 years of ballooning.............
1968 Whilst driving along the M1 saw some balloons, thought "what a great way to travel".
1968 Managed to contact Don Cameron, watched him inflate a balloon.
1969-71 Drove around with champagne in the back of the car hoping for a flight. It's customary to celebrate a first flight with champagne. First one bottle, then two. Didn't help.
1970 Joined BBAC (British Balloon and Airship Club)
1972 Joined Southern Balloon Group, bought a share in Carousel (a Western 65), made my first flight, obtained balloon licence and soon after, FAI sporting licence.
1973 Joint winner Air Britain trophy, Cirencester. (The original trophy was somewhat bigger)
1974 Won the Coupe Jean Nicot, in the Anglo French championship at Montbard, France
1974 Joint winner Rheims cup, in France
1975 Winner Coupe Prince de Ligne in Belgium (I got to keep the shotgun)
1975 Winner St Niklaas trophy, Belgium.
1975 The Club Aerostatic de l'Isle de France formed, based at Maintenon, France. Being at the inaugural meeting and a foreigner I was given the honour of being the first to sign the membership roll.
1975-1985 Attended many European balloon meets, around 8 per year, many in the company of Dick Wirth (part owner of Thunder Balloons) who shared his Thunder van with my Cameron Viva. Not all manufacturers would do that.
1976 Southern Balloon Group's second balloon was delivered, Carousel 2, a Cameron O-65, which incorporated aluminised fabric bought from Thunder. (Photo taken in France 18 May 2007. Latest flight 30 August 2009 in France)
1976 Crashed high in the Bavarian Alps after being caught in a storm. The balloon was repaired overnight for a show the next day.
1976 Made my first night flight, in Germany
1976 Produced my first balloon basket, followed by 4 more in the next few years.
1976 Third in the UK Championships
1976 Won the Irish Championships
1977 Bought Bert, a Cameron Viva 56, which I then flew with my own homebuilt basket and burner. (Photo taken in France, June 2011)
1977 My first burner produced, followed by 5 more in the next few years.
1977 Completed 300 P1 hours in balloons. Used an inflation fan for the first time.
1977 World Championships, I was 8th, the highest place UK pilot.
1978 to 1983 Chairman of the BBAC Technical committee, (voluntary, i.e. unpaid), responsible to CAA for all certifications (new types, new issues, and C of A renewals) on all UK balloons. During this period I persuaded CAA to issue a non expiring C of A subject to annual inspection instead of a £60 annual C of A. Over the next 30 years or so this saved balloonists a total some £1 million in fees. I then pointed out to CAA we would incur costs for the annual inspection so to compensate CAA quadrupled BBAC rebate on new issue Cs of A. This increased BBAC income by around £40,000 per year, and over the 30 years, by a total of again, around £1 million.
1978 Won The Irish Championships for a second time.
1979 Took part in First BP Alpine Balloon race with Simon Faithfull flying his Thunder 105 Turncoat. We won the first task but were disqualified due to taking off 1 minute outside the 30 minute slot - we had been ready for 10 minutes but were denied permission to launch for this time!
1979 First Chateau d' Oex meeting, organised by Hans Buker. So that we could enjoy our flying away from the stresses of competition we drew straws and declared Piero Porati of Italy the winner, before the flying started.
1980 Bought Big Red, the Typhoo Tea balloon, a Cameron N105, also (a surprise - I didn't know it was included in the deal) Little Red, a Cameron N31
1980 Built a quad burner to use for Alpine flights.
1980 to 1990 flew in the BP Alpine Balloon Races in Filzmoos Austria and at the Chateau d'Oeux meetings, also some years at Gstaad. During this period I made a total of around 50 high Alpine flights, over the mountains. More than most people. Almost every one used my homebuilt basket and burners. One notable flight on 22nd January 1981 was from Gstaad, Switzerland to Cesano Torino, Italy reaching speeds of 100 mph at 16,500 ft.
1981 Developed an auto pilot, made by Mike Robinson, for use on long flights. Based on the Ball 400 variometer. Finally completed 1983. The autopilot is still in use.
1981 Used the quad burner for 4 seconds in my 105 to stop a sudden descent. Frightened myself with the rate of climb obtained and even more frightened at the possible effect if I had used it for say 6 seconds. Never used it again.
1981 Went to Israel, planning to make the first free flight of a hot air balloon in Israel.
1982 Replaced the teacup on Big Red with a more appropriate (for me) 2m x 1m pint of beer.
1982 Won the David Niven long distance trophy at Chateau d'Oex. (I had to give the big silver cup back!)
1982 August 10th. Made the first ever flight from the city of San Marino. The launch site marked with a red circle, was from the Cava dei Balestrieri and was somewhat limited in size, we only had room to spread out the bottom half of the balloon when we inflated. All those people were not there but the stage was.
1986 Won the Gstaad Star trophy.
1986 Presented with Paul Tissandier Diploma by HRH Prince Andrew for services to ballooning, this is the citation.
1990 My daughter Eleanor's first flight. She later learned to fly on this same balloon, Bert.
1993 Bought a Cameron 120 envelope (photo taken 2012) to replace Big Red which was becoming tired.
1993 Won the Gstaad (Switzerland)/ Kaprun (Austria) trophy. Again exceeded 100 mph on an Alpine crossing.
1993 on. Flew gently, mostly at home, for fun. Moved to France in 1996. Used the 120 to take all my daughter's friends for a flight when she asked.
1999 Took a 3 week trip from San Diego to Costa Rica and back with Simon Faithful (see 1979 above) in his Cessna. Great but not again.
2000 A 10 day tour of the US calling in on balloonist friends, found through email correspondence.
2003 Embarked on 6 month US tour in a motor home in May with my 56 Viva hung on the back, calling on friends, sometimes flying, always having a great time.
2004. 10 month tour of Mexico and the US. Not much flying this time except for Albuquerque.
2005. Bought a house in the most wonderfully flyable area in France with usually calm winds, beautiful countryside, and wonderful views of the distant Pyrénées.
2005 - 2009 Didn't fly a lot. Travelled a bit, US and Canada. Made about a dozen balloon inspections each year for C of A, for free. I'm retired, I don't do anything for money. Bottles of wine accepted graciously but not required.
2009 Still flying. I have made 9 flights this year (5 with Bert, 4 with Carousel 2).
2010 My daughter Eleanor decided she wanted to learn to fly too. Here she is (with me) on 20th May, the first time she touched the burner,and here on her 3rd training flight.
2011 Here are photos of her check flight after which she flew frequently to build up hours.
2012 We converted the 120 to French registration so that it was possible for Eleanor to make passenger flights in France
2013 Eleanor now (February 2013) has over 100 hours as Pilot in Command. I cannot express how pleased I am that she is not only an enthusiastic pilot but top of the range for skill and safety.
2013 During the year the Cameron 120 got heavy on fuel. After I made several attempts to change the length of the parachute lines Cameron advised us that the fabric was too porous. After only 113 hours, never been misused, and with temp tabs unmarked, looking like new, it was unflyable through porosity. Huh!
2014 So we bought a new Kubicek 105 envelope in March. Yes it is just one balloon, different from all sides. And after 42 years as pilot I've retired from holding a licence. No connection with the Cameron failure, it's just time. I'm still doing annual inspections though, for C of A, still usually for free, and of course still fly from time to time, such as yesterday 14 the July 2014.........
As of today we haven't yet taken the new balloon out of it's bag. But eventually we will and the story will progress, at Eleanor's site.
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