“Are you going to fly it?” was the most frequent question I was asked when myself and friend Tom purchased the G-LIPS special shape balloon earlier this year. Well, yes, we did, with a little bit of help…
Paperwork had been completed to join the envelope with basket and kit, which is owned by friend and pilot Bradley Lewis from Oxford, which meant we were all set to fly. Now we just needed some good weather with winds light enough for a 218kg special shape. We got back from a very successful weekend of tethering and glowing at Telford Balloon Fiesta with our other shape G-DIPI and were looking ahead to the first weekend of September, which seemed very promising for flying.
After an in-depth review of the met office forecast for winds on surface, 500ft, 1000ft and 2000ft, we decided to meet at western region launch site the maize field at 5pm on Saturday 5th September in the hope of flying. I posted on social media ‘advertising’ that we may be flying and to keep a look out. An easterly 080 direction was forecast, taking us back towards Bristol from maize, which isn’t absolutely ideal from our region, however it was due to take us slowly south of Keynsham avoiding the city.
We arrived at an empty maize field, unlocked the gates, and positioned the basket where we wanted to lay the balloon out. Everyone soon noticed the gusts whipping through the field and a large dark cloud that had formed above Bath, but it was due to drop out. Everything was in position, now joined by another balloon team; the Donor Card balloon with PUT Liam Whitelock, but unfortunately the wind just didn’t drop which forced us to cancel the flight.
Pilot Bradley did manage to stand the balloon up for two minutes, but it proved a struggle with gusts hitting the back of the envelope. We pulled the balloon down, packed away and began looking ahead to Sunday evening…
So, Sunday afternoon arrived; we were all ready for take 2. Weather was much better with a southerly 180 direction forecast by met office and other websites, taking us very slowly towards Wick from the maize field. Calm on the surface and 5 knots at 500ft supposedly. Trees were completely still, always a good sign!
The basket was set up, balloon led out facing towards Kelston and we began the task of ensuring all 12 Velcro’s were sealed. There are 3 Velcro’s in each lip, a few of which were left open after Saturday’s short tether to allow us to deflate the balloon easier. By this point we were joined by a few other teams; Donor Card, Bailey Balloons and Elite Air’s Polar Bear Windows.
Ready to go. Fan on. Conditions were perfect so far with zero wind on the surface. It was looking good!
Before I knew it, we were airborne, slowly flying past Bailey Balloons’ A-300 envelope and climbing into the Bath skies. The first free flight of G-LIPS since 2017 and it was amazing. At first, we were heading towards Keynsham but then climbed to 1,500ft to find the southerly direction, which pushed us over Kelston at a very speedy 2 knots!
After 50 minutes we landed in one of Bath Soft Cheese’s fields in Kelston with friendly, welcoming landowners who loved the balloon.
10 balloons from Royal Victoria Park also flew that evening with 3 others from the maize field and 4 taking off near Bradford-on-Avon. Lots of cars were pulling in to get a snap of our balloon, which has never flown near Bristol or Bath, and it was great to see. A giant pair of lips and teeth flying high above you isn’t quite what you expect driving down the A4 and Kelston Road - but a nice surprise for passersby, we hope!
Thanks to Ballooning Pictures UK for some images used in this blog
Thanks to pilot Bradley and brilliant crew Dan, Chris, and Jayden for making it possible. Hope to be back in the skies very soon so look out for us… #FlyingLips
Stay up to date with our special shape balloons
Welcome to MJ Ballooning's blog! Read about local goings on, special shapes and more.