Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2009 - Review
The days of Discovery Channel being title sponsors had ended; IKEA and Chubb had also stopped operating. In 2009 title sponsors were Harvey Nichols, who have a store in Quakers Friars in Bristol. Bailey Balloons provided them with a plain round balloon registered G-CDIT, which was a cheap and effective alternative to spending thousands of pounds on a new envelope of their own. You may recall this was the original EDF, with the letter ‘e’ still visible on the parachute upon inflation. 2009 had a few new special shapes too. One of these was the UP balloon, created by Cameron Balloons for the Disney Pixar film and is built to look like hundreds of small multi-coloured balloons. With this and the digitally printed fabric it creates a great effect. Even an inflatable basket cover was made to accompany the balloon to create the illusion of a real flying house! This caused some sight issues when taking off and flying for the pilot, however, so they sent up a plain white balloon simultaneously with both pilots in radio contact. Another new one was Blue Square Betting registered G-CFXI, which came with a round balloon too, G-CFXL, both of which built by Lindstrand. These would become familiar sights in Bristol over the next few years. Both these new shapes were operated by Exclusive Ballooning, but once the UP contract ended after one year it was given back to Cameron’s.
The 2009 press launch was a bit different. It took place from Bristol airport runway and was of course very tricky for people to get to unless they were pilot or crew of a balloon taking part. There were no special shapes, all round balloons. A handful of them include Sun Rise, Redrow, Visit Bristol, Royal Navy, The Mall, New Holland, Thomson Local and ABC Flights.
Thursday Special Shape Rodeo
The day of the fiesta had arrived and although it wasn’t looking hopeful for the special shapes launch, the weather forecast for the other three days could not have been better. Bailey Balloons inflated the Harvey Nichols envelope alongside Exclusive Ballooning’s two brand new special shapes, which were great to see. Joining the new balloons were two favourites operated by the Airship & Balloon Company (ABC). These were of course the Monster and Churchill dog, both back for another year and with CofAs.
Thursday Night Glow
The glow went ahead as planned and once balloons were pulled down attention turned towards the first mass ascent of 2009.
Just as expected, light winds and blue skies greeted everyone at Ashton Court on Friday morning and pilots were on the launch field early. Not seen in Bristol for two years, the Jaguar Car was the first special shape to ascend. Registered G-OXKB and built in 1996, Muir Moffat owned this amazing creation along with the Piper that was built one year later. The French Cockerel team were back at the fiesta for another year, taking off with Exclusive Ballooning’s new shapes. HB-QOJ attended in 2009; a replica of Breitling Orbiter 3, built by Cameron’s earlier in the year. HB-QGF was at Bristol in 2003, but this was a different, very similar envelope.
As the day went on the wind started to pick up, but despite this the launch was called on. Some of the very experienced pilots were allowed to fly, with a total of 14 balloons by the end of the launch. Exclusive Ballooning tethered their Blue Square special shape throughout the whole launch.
Similar to Friday morning if slightly better, the first weekend ascent saw over one hundred balloons filling the skies of Bristol. The Jaguar car and Orbiter 3 joined the vast number of balloons in the perfect blue sky after around thirty minutes. ABC flew the monster in the slow winds towards the mansion house, which was a bit of a surprise. This was G-MSTR’s final flight from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta after attending since 2001.
The star of the show in 2009 was inflating, Mr Bup. The friendly turtle character attended in 2006 where it tethered on Sunday evening with fellow orange Belgium shape. It was very popular and great to see the team back at the fiesta. UP and Mr Bup ascended at the same time with the small white balloon assisting the UP pilot, as mentioned earlier. A few pilots managed to land back in the arena too, like G-BWKV, using winds at different heights to move them in their preferred direction.
High pressure was firmly in place for the rest of Saturday to allow the evening launch to go ahead, pleasing the thousands of spectators. It was a perfect sunny afternoon in Bristol! Not quite as many balloons flew on the evening, but still around 80, as some were staying back for the night glow. Orbiter 3 and Blue Square took to the skies, and at the end of the launch ABC got their two shapes out to tether.
Then it was time for the big special shapes! Mr Bup, the Piper and Jaguar Car were led out and inflating. First to hot inflate was the gigantic Cameron sports car, holding 110,000 cubic feet of air. Suddenly it took to the skies for a classic flight across Bristol. Meanwhile, Mr Bup and Pipy were being hot inflated after cold inflation was complete. They tethered until 8:30pm, when they were pulled down because preparations for the night glow were beginning.
Saturday Night Glow
The night glow was spectacular with Disney’s UP special shape taking part alongside other regulars.
The fifth ascent in a row took place on Sunday morning, kicking off the last day of the 2009 fiesta. Only two special shapes took part in this one, but there were still plenty of balloons in the sky.
Sometimes at the fiesta the last launch can be a little disappointing with some balloon teams heading home once the morning is over. But in 2009, this was not the case. A huge mass ascent took place and was probably one of the best Sunday evening launches ever from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. To finish the ascent and the fiesta, three of the best special shapes in the world launched into the sky. First to leave was Mr Bup, making his third 2009 appearance, and was a very popular one with the crowd. The Jaguar Car took off followed by the Piper, which would be the Scotsman’s last voyage of many over this wonderful city. We remember going back home in the car through Ashton and seeing those two flying close - and as a fan of the special shapes, it was one of the best things we’ve seen in ballooning ever.
Thank you to Ballooning Pictures, Phil’s Balloons, Ollie Warren and James McDonald for providing photos.
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Written by Matt Joyce 24/01/19