Firstly I think I should explain what the Great British Long Jump is. This is a competition held each year for experienced pilots both commercial and private to see how far they can fly in one continuous balloon flight across the United Kingdom. It requires skill and a high level of planning to manoeuvre around busy airspace and weather. And does not involve fare paying passengers On this one I had an easy job of sitting in an office relaying the weather data to my friend and colleague Gary Davies. There here follows Gary’s detailed and at times humorous report of the flight.The Great British Long Jump 2008.Written by Gary Davies.Hot air balloon: Cameron 120- G-CBMK Pilot G Davies, co pilot A. Waters.Ok, yes it was last a last minute attempt to do the distance thingy! A north to south direction which seemed the ideal thing to do and log in some decent hours.We all lead hectic and busy lives however we all got together on Friday the 31st, lovely I love trick and treating.
Alan Gray was the top man for crewing and navigating along side 15yr old Ben Levitt who until now had never been up close to a balloon and came along for right hand support. Adrian Waters was mlong_jump_008.jpgo pilot who I might add has recently checked out with C.Dunkley, just a tether and he’s complete.
So the plan was to drive up north somewhere very early Friday morning, 4am ok bloody el! Looked at the map and decided Driffield near Bridlington and having packed all the essentials including the right envelope we headed off to sunny Bridlington, hopefully. As we got to Goole we needed some hard earned mc Donald food, double egg and sausage mcmuffin for me with extra hash brown to keep my Adonis physique because of this everyone else jumped on the band wagon.
This was the last chance to look at maps; Adrian said shall I get some sugar rations? If you must 6 bars of thick chocolate brownies and a flask of coffee what else does one need. It was sunrise and bloody wet, there had been a lot of rain overnight as per usual up north. It was brisk and some disturbing cloud formations to the east of us cbs wintry showers Adrian said no need to worry just look the other way. We got to Drifffield and it was rather stormy, quick call to Robert Keron who was very helpful with on site weather from his lovely warm office in Norfolk. Stay west a bit if you can as the Taff was showing a few heavy cb’s down the east coast. We drove to the first field of a huge estate no one there, anyway not for us as it was too wet.
North Pocklington here we come! Yes a bit better there and not stormy great we launched off at the north end of Pocklington Airfield with permission of course by Roy Bell the chairman of the airfield oh and thanks to Malc Skilbeck for his assistance too. Took off at 9.20am climbed 3,500 ft and got our direction crack on, having gone left very quickly at around 22 knots for about 8 miles, we got back on track. “This weather is weird “I said to Adrian he replied “think the storms are drawing us in.
Adrian had very good knowledge of the flight path we were taking, naming all the places and places of high interest with out looking at the map! Have to say a very good navigator on board!
After 50 minutes or so had passed we got settled into arduous flight we thought we expected. Ok first flip up hands held high! Wave em like you just don’t care. Radio went dead; we charged everything prior to takeoff and had more instruments than a brass band! Adrian took over flight of the balloon, the reason being we need to do a radio check as we were heading for Finngley/ Robin Hood airport just to their west runway. All of a sudden these passenger jets took off near us went steep and bared to the right, couldn’t see much other traffic around the deck, tried to phone the tower no signal, stayed 2,000 ft and waved meanly at the holiday makers hoping we didn’t delay anyone. As we left there zone I had thought had I packed another radio battery and good I did just as well cause we were heading towards all the airports you can imagine! By the way I phoned Sheffield/Doncaster the next day and spoke to a very nice flight controller Casey who operates from Liverpool tower, money saving exercise she said no problems. I explained the situation and she said all the aircraft and pilots were delighted to see us and like she said it was crystal clear at that point and they could see where our tracks were phew!
So onwards and upwards we squeezed over centre nether Thorpe near Gamston Airport then over centre parks everyone were amused as we took a swoop over the aqua park no time for a splash and dash with an average speed of 22knts and direction 180-200 great.
We were trying to stay at around 1500ft there was a fast wind which gave us more left not enough to stop us skirting into Nottingham City then East Midlands airport. We radioed Nottingham first and they were very helpful, even wanted us to land on their airfield which we sailed across. I said another time as a load of helicopters took off and were taking off around us. We then headed off to Wymsworld Adrian radioed East Midlands as we were going straight in front of there approach lane, nice to have so many runways lit up for us!?. Planes were coming and going all around us, great if you are a spotter. By this time there were some large chunks of clouds we had popped through and now they could not see us so quickly went down took us 2mins! East Midlands asked us to remain 2,000ft on the qnh,we over heard one of the pilots in the plane above say “its nice to see one of them, good to have a different aircraft up, haven’t see one for ages. By this time G-CBMK was becoming famous for her apparent gracefulness passing through the airports.
We radioed the crew and I have to say Alan and Ben were with us all the way despite the Friday afternoon traffic. We then did a long stretch over Leicester. By 2pm it got very cold and we had a cloud above us that just would not shift. We covered some great country side over Daventry and headed of to Oxford, oh no more airports! The radio was on its last legs so we came down low and got a lot of turbulence, a huge hail storm to the right but luckily it didn’t catch us. Banbury was our next passing place oh lovely we still had a good pot of gas left but it was 4pm and the lights were fading so we were lining up Kidlington Oxford airport.
We called them up and asked if we could have permission to land and to our delight permission was granted try and land on the grass at the side of the runway. We lined it up perfectly, more top end though, as we got down over the first taxi runway we were 2ft above and all the planes waited stationary for us to do our bit a beautiful landing at 9 knots. We had a neat stand up on there helipad the fire engine crew were there to assist and this very nice chap gave me a lift to flight operations while Adrian de-rigged etc. What a posh airport I went and signed in they were delighted to see us asking questions etc I just wanted to get gone we were knackered. He said there was a landing fee, oh right based on what? He said weight, oh right, tell you what im lighter than air give me a tenner and ill get off now! lol. Joking apart they laughed I paid the £15 plus vat which was superb and great assistance on and off the field! So what a great flight we had, thank you to all involved in there bit of helping out. I would recommend it to anyone not just in October
Big thanks to Alan Gray: – crew and navigator
Robert Keron: – weather man
Ben Levitt: – assistant map reader
Adrian Waters: – co pilot and chief navigator, entertainment officer.
Also everyone we have written about for there help on our journey.