Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2014 - Review
The title sponsors of the 2014 Bristol Balloon Fiesta were Hardys Wine, who had a Z-105 balloon built registered G-HRDY and operated by Flying Enterprises. Above + Beyond were chosen as the charity partner, who also had a new Cameron envelope built especially for the event, G-CIHG. With the fiesta now in its 36th year, everybody was looking forward to another action-packed four days of hot air ballooning.
Queen Square was the chosen location by the organisers for the press launch, a location that had not seen any balloon fiesta-related activities since 2007. It was planned for the Monday or Tuesday before the event, of which Monday was looking the more promising day weather-wise. However, it was decided it would take place on Tuesday instead where there was a risk of a rain front moving through the region soon after launch time. Due to this Clive Bailey, flight director of the flying committee, decided to cancel the launch and encouraged pilots to tether for the local TV crews and media in attendance. Around half of the teams left but some sponsored envelopes were inflated and tethered as the rain moved in. Phoenix Balloons’ Taittinger was first to stand up, followed by Cameron Balloons, BWS and CJ Hole flown by Lighter Than Air. Sponsor balloons Hardys and Above + Beyond were tethered in the Square too, as the rain became increasingly heavy. Visit Malta was one of three others making their fiesta debuts at this year’s press launch, others being Lindstrand Media’s JLL registered G-CIGI replacing G-CHDH and First Flight’s Pattersons G-CIHC.
Eleven balloons tethered in total, telling people that the 2014 fiesta was just around the corner.
The fiesta had arrived and the gloomy press launch morning at Queen Square seemed a distant memory as the sun shined bright on Ashton Court for the opening day. Shortly after gates opened at midday and a steady flow of public started arriving on site, some commercial teams began laying out their balloons. The Palletways Dragon special shape was back for another year along with matching 105, operated by Lindstrand Media, who also had JLL. Exclusive Ballooning’s Ricoh Cube and Scottish Cup special shapes were also back at Bristol for another year, much to the delight of the spectators. The Financial Times contract came to an end after one year of 125th anniversary celebrations, so only appeared in 2013. Along with a handful of round balloons, they stayed tethered for around forty-five minutes.
Thursday Special Shape Rodeo
We were very hopeful that the evening launch would be going ahead with many special shapes looking to fly. This was confirmed in the briefing and announced to the crowd, despite it being a little gusty at times. Lindstrand Media began inflating once again, this time alongside Sapper G-ENGR. Meanwhile the UP special shape brought along by Cameron Balloons was tethered alongside two other shapes being inflated. G-UPOI was built for the popular Disney Pixar film ‘UP’ in 2009 and even had an inflatable house cover for the basket when commercially operated. The Smurf shape made a return in 2014 after last coming to Bristol in 1998. OO-BHC was built by Cameron’s the same year and appeared at many events around the world. As soon as the pyrotechnic boomed around the arena, Omega and DatumRPO instantly took to the skies simultaneously, heading straight for Bristol!
Also inflating was locally based Ballooningmedia’s new purchase - a giant light bulb! G-LAMP was created in 2000 for a Norwich lighting store L.E Electrical, and flew until 2006 but never clocked up many hours. It was stored away for a number of years until recently bought, still looking in mint condition with a valid CofA set to last for years to come. It’s great to look at, but not all is as simple as it seems - it has a very small mouth making it very easy to burn, plus highly complicated turning vents.
The shapes began taking off with huge roars from the crowd. Belgium team the Modemakers were attending for the first time with their A-210 OO-BGV, which was permitted to fly tonight as it’s a ride balloon.
Palletways were one of the next up with its glass bottom basket clearly visible as the Lindstrand shape gained height over Ashton Court. Yes, not for the faint-hearted! Upon landing the team ran into some trouble, or more specifically, a lamp post. See the video below! The Cockerel team from France were back for another year, only missing 2007 and 2012 since first appearing in 2005. But this would be one of its final flights from the fiesta.
Click here to watch the Palletways Dragon landing on YouTube.
Along with usual ride balloons including Red Letter Days, Park Furnishers, Bath Building Society, Torex and ABC Flights, Exclusive Ballooning launched in their two 2013-built special shapes. As the Scottish Cup flew over the crowd you could see the small rips in the fabric, which was caused by a design fault by manufacturers Kubicek Balloons where the material became heated.
Keeping with fiesta tradition, the biggest shape was left until last to take to the skies. It was Miss Daisy all the way from America! Lighter Than Air had helped to get this internationally recognised shape right here in Bristol, and it was certainly worth it. It was built by Aerostar in 1998, registered N-91046. The US pilot didn’t waste any time in getting airworthy, taking off for Miss Daisy’s first ever flight over Bristol. The British Balloon Museum & Library (BBM&L) were also busy preparing their Nescafe mug special shape, built in and registered G-RMUG, for a quick tether near the arena entrance. It looked in superb condition and was certainly a treat to see it after originally being told they were bringing the bowler hat. They not only had Nescafe, but also another shape in their trailer, but we would see this at another time.
As teams began setting up for the night glow, a Belgium special shape team were tethered in the centre of the field. Babette was the third and final foreign shape at the 2014 fiesta, registered OO-BQM and built by Ultramagic in 2013.
Click here to watch a video on YouTube of this launch.
Thursday Night Glow
Title sponsors Hardys wine took centre stage at the glow alongside others such as G-JHAA, Dribuild, Kewtech, Visit Malta and Penny.
Light winds and clear skies meant perfect conditions for the first mass ascent of the 2014 Bristol Balloon Fiesta. 124 balloons flew from this spectacular and huge mass launch in slow winds taking pilots towards Nailsea, but with the odd few heading over the city on a north westerly. Due to Thursday evening’s landing incident, Slick the Dragon did not fly but was still tethered with the bottom of the envelope destroyed and hanging off.
Cloud had rolled in for the evening ascent with a chance of drizzle potentially ruining any hopes of flying. It was flyable, but you can’t go flying in rain. However, this was not as bad as first thought and at the 6pm briefing the launch was confirmed. 50-60 balloons took off including the Smurf.
The BBM&L were preparing to tether their second special shape of the fiesta alongside Ballooningmedia also getting something out the bag. Out came a special shape not seen at the fiesta since around 1994/95, one of two identical shapes built. It was of course the Maxwell House coffee jar! Built in 1993 by Thunder & Colt for a television commercial, G-BVBJ was donated to the museum years later whilst G-BVBK is owned in Ireland. The 33-year-old Satzenbrau pils bottle was hot inflated by Ballooningmedia and both were tethered beside each other for a short time. Miss Daisy and Babette were tethered too. The American pilot was keen to fly the daisy from this slot, but a few UK pilots explained that the conditions were not suitable.
The first weekend slot saw similar conditions to Friday morning but this time with a WNW wind direction. 114 balloons flew with 90 of these all coming into land at the old chocolate factory in Keynsham, beating last year’s record of 78.
Click here to watch a video of this ascent.
This is when the weather took a considerable turn for the worse. Flying conditions for Saturday evening were not looking favourable with poor visibility and the risk of rain. Exclusive Ballooning and Flying Enterprises tethered for their clients picking up much attention from the thousands of people in the crowd, but all other balloons stayed in their bags.
Saturday Night Glow
Despite the disappointment of the 6pm announcement, the night glow was going ahead. The Ricoh cube took part with the usual round balloons glowing in time to music, followed by a firework display by Skyburst.
The final day was a complete washout with ex-hurricane Bertha sweeping its way across the country with winds of up to 50mph. Organisers made the decision to open the site at 11am and the Breitling wing walkers display went ahead mid-afternoon.
Thanks to Ballooning Pictures for providing photos of Fri AM, Sat AM and Sat glow.
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Written by Matt Joyce 31/01/19