Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2011 - Review
Sponsored by Collett Transport Services (CTS), the 2011 Bristol Balloon Fiesta took place between 11th to 14th August. CTS had a Z-90 manufactured by Cameron Balloons registered G-OCTS to celebrate winning sponsorship and to promote their business throughout the four days. No new special shapes appeared in 2011, but one came back after twelve years away from Bristol with the usual regulars of the last few years. This was the Panasonic Battery shape, which is the newer of two battery balloons, built by Lindstrand and registered G-OKCP. It had recently been bought by Craig Thompson who decided to bring it along to the 2011 event. G-PSON is the other Panasonic envelope, built nine years before in 1990 by Thunder & Colt, which also used to attend Bristol.
The press launch was similar to the previous year’s and was held at central location College Green on the Wednesday. Only a handful of balloons took part, but it was still a nice way to launch the 33rd annual fiesta. College Green used to host many spectacular balloon launches back in the 1990s with Sainsbury’s flying circus in 1996 and lots of fiesta press launches. Special shapes like Chubb, Converse and Bradford & Bingley were once inflated here.
Bailey Balloons’ G-CDIT was at the 2011 launch, now sponsored by BBC’s The One Show, seen alongside other balloons local to Bristol. Flying Enterprises were in attendance with Fishtank, which was still looking good after being built in 2003. The Jaguar envelope, David Hathaway, Visit Bristol and the Bristol University Hot Air Ballooning Society (BUHABS) were among the other balloons to fly, with of course, CTS. Remained tethered was G-AVTL, better known as the famous Bristol Belle piloted by Mr Don Cameron himself.
Wet and windy weather surrounded Ashton Court on the opening day, which would ground all free flying. Despite this the weather was forecast to improve over the next few days, though still overcast. The Airship & Balloon Company’s (ABC) Churchill dog contract continued into 2011 since running from 2003/2004 but last flew in 2005 although still having a valid CofA. They tethered alongside co-operative funeral care, Jaguar, CTS and the battery. By this time the monster.com balloon had finished operating, been put in storage and later sold abroad.
Thursday Special Shape Rodeo
A steady trickle of people arrived at the estate expecting to see some hot air ballooning action, so some teams got out their baskets, rigged up and began to lay out. Title sponsors CTS inflated beside the marquee with Jaguar. Lindstrand Media also joined them with their 105A Palletways envelope G-WAYS. Slick the Dragon was there but understandably the team were reluctant to get it damp with the hope of a potential flight at 6am.
Blue Square Betting’s giant cube special shape’s trailer drove into the field, returning to Bristol for the third year, operated by Exclusive Ballooning. Also with them was the Panasonic Battery. It was a tricky inflation but with lots of media and press in the arena, it was worth making the effort.
Thursday Night Glow
Despite the slightly disappointing start, the winds were light enough for the night glow to go ahead as planned. Blue Square joined balloons including BT, Loughborough Uni, Vital resources, Fishtank and G-FUND. This is a Thunder & Colt AX7-65Z type created thirty years prior to this fiesta.
Balloon pilots and crew arrived on site at daybreak and it was not looking promising. Low cloud to 500ft with the potential for some drizzle delayed the launch for one to two hours. Friday morning is always the big press morning at the fiesta with the first planned mass ascent, so the flying committee decided to wait and if the Met Office were correct the conditions would improve. Lindstrand Media brought out their two main special shapes for some advertising, the Palletways Dragon and the mighty George White Superbike, standing 37 metres tall. More balloons began to inflate plus some other special shapes as they waited for the low cloud to lift.
After a lot of waiting around the launch was called on and many pilots were keen to get going. Cloud was mainly above 1000ft, which is also the legal limit known as the ceiling, that hot air balloon pilots must stay above when flying over the city. Taittinger flown by Phoenix Balloons was first to take off into the grey skies, with a further 62 pilots following. The strength of the wind and direction was perfect, which allowed Slick and Blue Square to fly.
Conditions improved for the evening ascent and just short of one hundred balloons took to the skies. A-GAS operated by First Flight and the Panasonic battery were first to take off. Many others followed including Rapido; a Cameron G-80 from 1999 not seen at the fiesta before, plus the main ride operators, G-IHOP, Lindstrand demo, Betfair and oakfield.
The French Cockerel team, back at Bristol for a sixth year, took off towards the end alongside a couple of other special shapes. This left ABC tethered in the arena as Churchill looked on into the distance.
Sadly, the next planned ascent was cancelled due to weather.
It was looking hopeful for the evening ascent although still a little grey. Rain showers were meant to stay away and winds were light enough for a flight. At 6pm the decision was made to fly. Many balloons took to the skies with the westerly direction taking them straight across Bristol towards Keynsham.
Once all the balloons had left the arena, the crowds were treated to something a bit special. Classic Bristol special shape the Jaguar XK8 car, built by Cameron’s in 1996, was inflated and remained so as darkness fell.
Saturday Night Glow
It was time for the night glow and conditions were excellent. The Jaguar car took centre stage, tethered as the round balloons began inflating around it to the dramatic musical soundtrack.
For the fourth time in 2011 the mass launch went ahead with the Palletways Dragon, Cockerel and Blue Square becoming airborne. A total of 96 balloons took to the air.
The final planned ascent was cancelled due to gusty winds. Cameron Balloons, Jaguar and Silverline tethered for a short time in the sheltered end of the arena, but were still getting battered by the gusts.
Thank you to Ballooning Pictures, Phil’s Balloons, Ollie Warren and James McDonald for providing photos.
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Written by Matt Joyce 25/01/19