Bath Balloon Fiesta 2016 Review
This years' Bath Balloon Fiesta took place from Friday 27 to Monday 30 of May. The weather didn't play ball for most of the weekend as it was thundery and rainy on Friday evening, and it wasn't looking much better for Saturday. There was low cloud forecasted for the morning slot, but it turned out to be okay and just about flyable. However, they had cancelled the flights the night before. A few would have gone for it despite the gusts. Saturday evening's launch was cancelled due to a risk of thunderstorms. They seemed to miss the Bath area, but even with a threat of them it wasn't safe to carry out a balloon flight.
On Saturday night we heard that the briefing had been called on for the morning and that the pilots would meet at Kensington Meadows at 6:30am. 4 balloon teams arrived, but only Snow Business G-SBIZ and G-CBNI took to the skies of Bath. Fans were turned on at 7am. It couldn't be any earlier because of the noise restrictions in central Bath. At another launch site, such as the maize field, pilots can take off at whatever time they like. The gradient was 19-21kts and it was a North Easterly wind direction, so not ideal ballooning weather, hence why the commercial ride balloons cancelled their flights. The teams had to be quick because the wind was picking up fast. The Niceday team decided that they would stand the balloon up and see what it was like, but it was gusting quite a lot and they had a twisted parachute line, so they pulled it down. The 2 balloons raced into the sky becoming airborne at the same time.
On the Sunday afternoon at around 3pm we were told that the evenings' briefing had been called on. The pilots would meet at the top of Royal Victoria Park for 6:30pm. The wind was meant to drop out slightly at 7pm, creating a window of opportunity for flying. The Ballooning Network confirmed their flight in Bath Building Society from the park too. Due to the wind direction taking any balloons out of Ashton Court near the airport, Bristol Balloons diverted and turned up at Bath. 5 private balloon pilots arrived at the arranged time and after sending a few helium met balloons up, they all decided to fly! The teams set their baskets up. We helped out the G-JEMS team, pilot James McDonald, and were looking forward to our first ever flight! The balloon was built in 2016 by Ultramagic in Spain and is made of super light material. Next to us was Ballooningmedia who would be flying G-BIBO, and also Bristol Blue with G-UWEB. G-CBNI, UWE Bristol and Bristol Balloons began to cold inflate.
G-CBNI, built in 2002, became airborne, racing into the sky. The first of the commercial ride balloons was nearly ready for take off too, getting ready at the bottom of Royal Victoria Park. So many people took advantage of the gorgeous day in Bath and were in the park, so the Ballooning Network had to put a temporary barrier around the balloon.
Bristol Blue, owned by very experienced local pilot Derek Maltby, was ready for take off alongside Niceday. The same owners as Niceday have G-CCPP. They also zoomed into the sky, which can be seen from our video. Bath Balloons' Bath Building Society also launched - a very regular sight if you live in Bath.
Ballooningmedia started up their fan and we were laying G-JEMS out as quickly as we could. It was planned that we would take off together with G-BIBO but it didn't work out, so we were last to fly. So many people were in the park all watching James inflate the balloon - did a very good job! Before I knew it I was up and flying over Bath, peering over the side of the basket to see the Royal Crescent!
Almost as soon as we were airborne you could hear the wind hitting the side of the envelope. It was a windy one, but loved every minute of it! After an hour's flying and a close shave with a very large hedge, we landed in Chilcompton in a cut field - perfect! Whilst I helped packed the balloon and basket up, James (pilot) went to find the landowner, which understandably took some time. Once the vehicle was safely in the field we packed everything into the trailer and were on our way.
Then we headed for the local pub and saw some of the other pilots and crew, which is often how an evening of ballooning ends! It was a totally unexpected flight and thanks to much to James for flying me for the first time. Matt.