This evenings balloon ride was quite challenging from a pilots point of view and a real bonus for are passengers, so I am going to jot down my thoughts as I flew, oh I,m Robert by the way. We are flying from Werrington Sports Centre, Peterborough this evening and have ten very keen and enthusiast passengers to fly. The wind is a little quicker than our forecasters had briefed running at between 10 and 12 knots on the surface the air was very stable with the visibility beyond 25 miles. Our passengers were thou rally briefed prior to inflation. I knew with the wind at this speed inflating the balloon is always a real handful. As the wind starts to play with the balloon canopy treating it a bit like a sail on a yacht, until you get the balloon fully pressurised, getting the balloon airborne in a good breeze is always the hard bit, the flight and landing are all pretty straight forward. At 7.10 p.m. I had to balloon ready to go passengers in. Throttles on the stoppers and go. The power from the Stratus propane burners burners is immense; it’s good to fly with the best kit available. We ascent up to 1,500 feet and we are travelling at 23 knots up towards Crowland. Once out in the Fens I always descent low to see what the surface speed and direction is, always easy to do out hear as its sparsely populated and no livestock. At 200 feet we are moving at 14 knots so we are going cover quite a bit of ground. As we approach Cowbit I can see our crew waiting on the Spalding road but still now where sensible to land. A few fields of harvested oilseed rape but most of the wheat fields are still standing. One major tip when flying a hot air balloon is that you need the good will of the farming community to allow you to retrieve your balloon. The golden rule with a cherry on top is: whatever you do DO NOT land in a farmers crop, its his livelihood and does not go down well if you pull that stunt. Once we pass Spalding the land is very fertile and the cropping changes to valuable root crops such as cabbages daffodils and other exotic crops, most of which have not been harvested. I make three careful approaches to land now very low at 100 feet but either the fields are to small (we need a big one at this speed) or the proximity to power cables is too close, so we press on. I also notice from the GPS are speed has also increased. After one hour ten minutes in the air we have passed Weston hills and are heading up to the A17 I spot two fields of cut hay two miles to our front with access from a small C road. At this speed we need a very, very precise approach that does take focus and concentration. Our passengers who have been chatting no stop can now see the field and are in their secure landing positions, all now very quite. I edge the hot air balloon ever lower at 40 feet a minute descent we clear some farm building and two sets of wires and have the field on line. The first field has large round bales in it so we overfly that one the second field is empty. We clear the hedge by 10 feet and I glance at the GPS 15 knots. I reach up to the rapid deflation system and hand over hand a pull with vigour. Touch down, no bounce just drag over nearly 75 metres we pull to a holt. That was the quickest one I’ve done this year I thought, feeling rather pleased with myself. Our passengers were also on quite a high. By the time are crew arrived and paked up we had run out of daylight, so we served our champagne not to a glorious Lincolnshire sunset but in the headlights of a Land Rover defender.
Thank for yesterday I really did enjoy our balloon flight with you. Explaining what was going on during the flight added to a real quality experience. Please also thank Alan and Peter for their efforts on the ground.