Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2007 - Review
The 29th Bristol Balloon Fiesta returned to Ashton Court in 2007, and organisers were hoping for better weather than 2006, where only one small flight was managed due to gusty winds. Discovery Channel were once again the title sponsor for the third year in a row, attending with their Bailey Balloon, G-BWUU.
There was a press launch for the 2007 fiesta at Queen Square, following successful launches from there in 2005 and 2006. However, the balloons did not take off - it was just a tether. No photos sadly. Exclusive Ballooning’s Sloggi racer at one point was on a high tether in the centre of the square.
Thursday Special Shape Rodeo
Blue skies greeted pilots and spectators as they arrived on Thursday afternoon, and hopes remained high that the special shapes launch would be going ahead for the first time since 2003. Although slightly breezy at times, the flying committee called the flight on as winds were light enough to fly. Many special shape trailers were driving onto the field, some recognisable from previous years, and some not. The Airship & Balloon Company (ABC) were back with their extremely popular Monster and Churchill shapes, which they were setting up as the Stroud & Swindon house tethered. Meanwhile, at the other end of the arena the brand new Cabot Circus balloon was making its debut at the fiesta, registered G-CESH. Of course, this was built to advertise Bristol’s big new shopping centre opening in 2008.
Also led out preparing for inflation were Phoenix Balloons with IKEA, the Chubb fire extinguisher, and Flying Enterprises with their nine-year-old Stowells wine box. This was happening amongst a few ride balloons setting up for paying passengers, including Bristol Balloons and Bailey Balloons. G-OEGG, the Cadburys Crème Egg balloon began to inflate, as was Aston Martin. Aston Martin had not appeared in Bristol since the 2003 fiesta, after being created by Cameron Balloons in 1997. Muir Moffat’s famous Scottish Piper envelope was being rolled out and set up, with 2007 marking ten years since completion at the Bedminster factory.
Crowd favourites continued to tether in the gusts, and Muir Moffat’s Jaguar XK8 Car shape was being stood up. A true fiesta classic, which was returning after three years away from Bristol after doing little flying. Although created eleven years prior to this, G-OXKB was still in good condition and had a valid CofA (certificate of airworthiness). They were hoping to get away, but the wind meant they had to pull the special shape down and try again a little later.
Cloud rolled in but winds were getting lighter by the minute. Bailey Balloons’ Z-275 was first to take off, closely followed by IKEA, who were fiesta sponsors in 2004. It didn’t take long for others to follow, including Aston Martin piloted by Andrew kaye, the Chubb Fire Extinguisher and the Crème Egg. It was a great sight for the thousands of people watching, kicking off the fiesta in style!
More continued to lift into the skies, but some attention had turned to two less well-known special shapes at Bristol. E5 Mode was tethering, built by Cameron’s in 2000 and registered in Belgium as OO-BKV. It was certainly a surprise to see this one. The Kiwi bird made a comeback in 2007, now registered as A6-KWI. Some of you may recall seeing this in the early 1990s with the likes of Rupert bear and the caramel bunny. Looking slightly worn, it took off and joined the other five shapes in the sky. Lindstrand’s Stroud & Swindon house, G-CDWV, made its first ever flight from the fiesta after the disappointing weather in 2006.
Muir Moffat’s team had the Jaguar car inflated once again and were preparing to take the car for a ride, but not a usual ride; across a big city in a wicker basket! As E5 Mode was deflated, ABC launched their monster.com balloon alongside the unbranded Bailey envelope, whilst Churchill remained on the ground. The final balloon to launch was the Jaguar car, swaying from side to side as the pilot pulled the quick release. Known as ‘Pipy’, the famous Piper didn’t fly, but was inflated at the very end for a short time in the calmest winds of the evening.
Click here to watch the Jaguar Car's take off on YouTube.
Thursday Night glow
As Pipy was pulled down, attention turned to the night glow. With calm winds and no rain forecast, it was going ahead. Discovery Channel were positioned in the centre of the arena as the main sponsors with the usual two rows either side. Balloons glowing included BWS, Fishtank, Permo Air, Lindstrand’s new Redrow Homes and tiny N-31 G-CEYD.
Favourable weather continued into Friday and Bristol was treated to a huge mass ascent. This launch saw the Chubb fire extinguisher, Stroud & Swindon, the Monster, IKEA and the Kiwi take to the skies. The IKEA Z-42 was last to fly, this time fitted with the hopper seat. It was a slow morning so some didn’t travel very far, but made for some amazing photos.
During the afternoon at some stage Action Man was inflated as it was swapping owners and they wanted to take a look. Little did we know that this classic shape would return to Bristol five years later with Babybel. The first evening mass ascent was very similar to the morning, with over one hundred balloons flying. It really was a perfect start with 2006 a distant memory. The usual special shapes took part, with the Kiwi and Piper taking off at the end. Winds were much lighter than Thursday so it was no problem launching the Scotsman into the air. It was a fitting end to a brilliant, busy day at Ashton Court!
Blue skies and light winds once again greeted pilots and crew at daybreak for the main day of the fiesta. A change in wind direction meant they would be heading towards Clifton and over the suspension bridge, with many hoping to touch down on the Downs. Discovery Channel was first to hot inflate, followed by some other commercially operated balloons. Soon the skies were filled with hot air balloons in every direction. The Crème egg was amongst the usual 2007 shapes to fly on this ascent, with some suspecting this could be the final flight of this fiesta.
After one or two hours of perfect flying weather, fog rolled in and dramatically reduced visibility. This caused problems for the kiwi and monster pilots, forcing them to land back in the arena with others.
Saturday Afternoon + Evening
Classic special shape Action Man was tethered Saturday mid-afternoon; its first fiesta appearance since 1999 when operated by Virgin Airship & Balloon Company. The registration G-RIPS was shortly changed afterwards to G-CGIS. Into the evening the wind had picked up, but a good number of balloons flew on the main Saturday evening slot.
Saturday Night Glow
The night glow went ahead as the wind dropped out, following the same pattern as Thursday’s making for some superb photos.
Unfortunately, Sunday morning did not follow the success of the two previous mornings. It was called on, but only a limited number of pilots decided to fly. It was disappointing with no special shapes coming out the bag and only around fifteen flying. These included Chelsea Finance, both Snow Business, Permo air, the Ballooning Network, an orange Japanese envelope and a few others.
Conditions worsened into the evening, therefore the mass ascent was cancelled with very limited arena activity.
Thank you to Matt Cleaves, Phil’s Balloons and Ballooning Pictures for providing photos.
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Written by Matt Joyce 24/01/19