Archive for the ‘Flights’ Category
A small get together of balloons was planned at Thornbury golf club over the weekend of the 6th and 7th April, about 20 balloons had been invited along to attend. I was down to be pilot for trainee pilot Chris Gingell in the old David Hathaway Transport balloon. We had attended a meal put on at the club on the Friday evening, where it was decided that the morning was going to be too windy and the briefing was cancelled – meant that we got a nice lie in! We did go back up in the morning for a lovely cooked breakfast, but not until about 9:30am!
There were to be some competitions over the weekend to keep everyone entertained between flying slots, and a putting challenge was put on around lunch time. 6 holes, each harder than the last one with slopes and all sorts (no windmills in site on this course!), we had to work our way around each and try to get them in the holes in the least amount of putts!
After this we decided to go into Thornbury town centre, not exactly a buzzing place, but it did have a betting shop, and as it was Grand National day, it would have been rude not to have placed a bet (or 6!). Unfortunately I didn’t win a single thing! Our later meal was brought forward an hour as the plan was to move launch sites and fly back towards the golf club. We went up to a farmer’s field in Wotton Under Edge and started to set up our balloon.
A few balloons took off but it was rather gusty on the surface, and evidence of thermals were still around as well. We decided to wait around a bit, a few people attempted to inflate but gave up due to the wind, and we followed suit, deciding that it would be better to get back to the golf club in one piece. A nice early night as we were up early for a briefing at 5:30am.
Perfect conditions arrived for the morning flight on Sunday, and we had use of the fairways on holes 9, 10, and 18, so we all started to
lay out our balloons. The wind was in the direction to eventually take us across the river Severn and over to Wales, but we decided that we would make the decision to cross or not once we were in the air. There was going to be a cross put out for us to drop a marker as close as possible to the centre, although we didn’t know where!
As soon as we took off we realised that it was right in the middle of the driving range! Not far, and it didn’t take Chris any flying skill to get us over the top of the cross. However,I’ve not thrown a marker for a competition before, so was looking forward to seeing how I was going to do. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account for the wind, and waited until we were right above the cross before throwing it. If I had done it a few seconds before the cross then I would have done better!
The wind wasn’t that strong so we decided that we were going to stay this side of the river. After around 30 minutes of flying we were getting close to the river, so we decided to look for a landing site. The wind on the surface was actually going almost back in the opposite direction! We found a great grass field, right next to a road. A great 40 minute flight. Soon after our retrieve were with us and it was back to the golf club for some well earned breakfast.
More golfing competitions were planned and this time it was on the driving range. Unfortunately it wasn’t a competition of hitting it as far as you could, but one of skill trying to get to the 50 metre marker. I made it through to the 2nd round, but unfortunately then got knocked out! The final lunch with prize giving was next, and I was delighted to find out that my rubbish marker throwing skills managed to get me 3rd place! Although I know there was no flying to a target skill, I was really pleased with myself to get 3rd!
All in all it was a great weekend and well planned activities to keep everyone entertained during the day. There is talk of it happening again next year and we will be more than happy to attend once again. Thank you to everyone that planned this event, and to everyone that went along and took part in the fun and games, we all had a great time.
Friday 12th October
After breakfast at the fiesta field, the briefing team advised us that there might be a little bit of rain due in, so had cancelled flying but would appreciate it if people tethered their balloons for the crowds that had turned up. We were thinking about doing just that…but then the heavens absolutely opened and a huge thunderstorm was right above us! We all got absolutely soaked!!! A great way to end my last day in Albuquerque!
We all decieded that we should go for breakfast and the local breafast bar was the place to go, tho whole place was packed out with balloon pilots and their teams. A nice big breakfast with all of our crew and friends. Unfortunatley I had to say goodbye. I had met some amazing people at the fiesta, and I now have myself an American family! But, it was time for me to leave as I now start my non ballooning part of my holiday travelling through to see the likes of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Sedona and a couple of other places as well. Lots of miles, but a nice car to do them in!
I’m going to stop my blog here, whilst I enjoy my own holiday!
I want to give a massive thank you to the people that made my trip what it was, Patrick Chando, Eric Hodges, Lori Pitman, Shelley Cannaday and her whole family, plus everyone else that I met, everyone that was just friendly towards me, talked to me and made it was it was for me. Also a big thank you to Ian Jones for helping me sort out a travelling route for the non ballooning part of my holiday and including some things to do and see along the way.
I will be back in Albuquerque, but unfortunately it’s not going to be in 2013. We will be going to Metz in France in the summer, plus I also need to save for it again! I would like to think that I will be out in 2014, and hopefully that will be even better than this time around!
Until next time….. Flooper
Thursday 11th October
So, once again – up and off to fiesta field after picking the crew up. The usual start to the day with breakfast, and then the briefing. Again, unfortunately, it looked pretty windy. We stood and watched as the rides balloons all started to take off, but even they were screaming past us!
We decided that it was definately a no fly day for us!
They had put some targets out for the balloons that did take off though. Bear in mind they have to wait for all the other balloons to clear the launch site before they can open it up for competition, so the balloons that had taken off had to just circle the field before it was declared open. Pretty amazing really, I’ve never been to anywhere that you are able to do that! So very close marker drops and ring toss’ though.
We decided to have a look at the stalls that were out there, and thought that I would buy some more pin badges to add to my ever growing collection! I met Michael Glenn and Bob Romaneschi who sell a whole bunch of pins and also do some great things with ballooning, so it was a great pleasure to meet these guys. And I did end up buying almost $100 worth of pins!!
Unfortunately tomorrow is my last day here in Albuquerque, so I need to go and collect my car. I did request a Ford Mustang convertible, but as with any rental car it’s “or similar”! We went to Albuquerque airport to sort out all the paperwork, and he wasn’t sure if he had a mustang available, but said he would do what he can whilst we waiting around at the collection point. It was a good 20 minute wait before we saw a white Mustang convertible drive around the corner….yay!!
We drove back to the house so that we could drop off my car, have a rest and relax. The power of this car was brilliant! Although it was an automatic and the steering wheel was on the wrong side, I quite liked it!
There was due to be another night glow back at the fiesta field this evening, but with the winds picking up even more they had cancelled the glow, but they were going to continue with the fireworks. So we had a few drinks and watched those before heading out for a meal and then back home.
Wednesday 10th October
This morning I was due to fly with Patrick Chando. The usual start to the day with the “breakfast” in the marquee and then out to the launch field. The briefing told us that it was going to be a windy flight, but it was called on and left to the pilot if they actually wanted to launch or not. We watched a few of the balloons take off, and it didn’t seem too bad. Then as time went on it actually got really windy, with some gusts of 20mph!
We stayed to watch all the people taking off and after a while we saw some really fast landings back on the launch field. Some very interesting ways of helping to stop a balloon – basically people were hurling themselves onto the baskets, regardless of if they were about to get crushed or not! It did seem to work though! Unfortunately there were a few incidents of balloons being ripped upon landing, most noticably one of the ladybug balloons that unfortunatley rip itself into two pieces on a lampost.
After watching all of these crazy goings on, we headed off as it was time to go to the zoo! Every year the Fiesta put on a big BBQ type affair at the local zoo. It was a great little setting and pretty much everyone of the pilots and crew were there. Some really nice food, great company and a lot of chatter, oh, and of course some drink!
One thing that I wanted to do whilst I was out here was to go out and get a really good steak, regardless of cost! We had heard about a “hidden restaurant” somewhere in Albuquerque. It’s one of these places that doesn’t have any signeage out the front, no advertising, no leaflets in hotels to tell you of its existance, it’s all about word of mouth. Apparently the one we were looking for was the 3rd best hidden restaurant in the whole of the USA – I’m not sure if this means by the quality of the food, or by how well hidden it is!
Naturally, it took us a while to find the place! It was on a little industrial estate with a whole bunch of black out windows and a plain black front door. We knocked on the door and a little pannel slid across and some guy inside asked us for a password! Not really knowing what to do or say, and kind of realising it’s a bit of play acting on their part, we said that we were here to see “big Dave”! He let us in! Success!! When we were in the guy continued with his little act and had a baseball bat in his hand and told us the rules of meeting “big Dave”!
We were shown to our table, in a dim lit room with a really old guy playing the piano in the corner! I ended up having a big Fillet Minon steak and it was absolutley amazing! By far the best steak I have had, and even the price was reasonable – $60. It might sound expensive, but for what it was I thought it was good value.
Back home and off to bed, as up again for potentially more flying, although it looks windy.
So, those with a beady eye will notice that I am no longer in the USA and I have fallen behind quite a bit with the updating of this blog. Yes, you are correct, well done! I ended up having such long days and was so tired by the evening that I just did not find time to update. So I made a few notes and will now go and fill in the gaps and update now so you can read about what I got up to!
Tuesday 9th October
This morning was a time to crew for another team. The reason that I ended up in the USA was because of a guy called Patrick Chando, so I felt it only right that I was to be part of his team for at least one flight!
During the week of fiesta they don’t do a mass ascension they do competitions, so the majority of flyers will go outside of the fiesta field and fly-in to targets that have been placed. Some people will fly from the field if they are not competing.
This morning, Patrick was taking part in the competition, so we headed off site – of which it needs to be at least 1 mile away from the fiesta field. It seems that out here that it’s perfectly OK to drive to a business car park and just start setting up your balloon. If we did this in the UK then I think it would cause arguments with landowners!
Where we were setting up there were a number of other balloons with us, and we drove past quite a number on the way to our site too. You are only allowed to launch after the fiesta give the go ahead over the local radio – they need to clear the field of fiesta flyers and also to set up the targets. Once ready we saw loads of balloons all launching and flying in towards the field. Patrick took off and headed for the field too.
Apparently, usually they will set up a number of targets on the field, but this morning there was only one, and Patrick missed it. So he’s using that excuse and sticking to it!!
We headed for the field in the truck and got there just as Pat did, but he decided that he was going to go high and carry on with his flight rather than box around to get back to the target.
After just over an hour we caught up with him as he was coming in for landing, in a field at the side of the road that was full of cactus! Quite a novelty for me as we only really have cactus in pots in the kitchen!
Distraction over, we packed away and headed back to the field to tailgate.
A long story short, most of the afternoon was spent in a medical centre getting an Ultra Sound on my leg and then at the pharmacy to get some antibiotics!
After that fiasco, we decided that we should go up to the top of the Sandia Mountain, a little over 10,600ft above sea level at it’s peak. We drove up to the top and there are some fantastic views from up there, and of course a souvenir shop for me to buy a t-shirt! I was surprised that I wasn’t more out of breath, or indeed collapsed on the floor because of the altitude. The temperature had dropped about 25 degrees Fahrenheit from the bottom of the mountain too!
Tomorrow brings a trip to the zoo!
Monday 8th October
So….up and out, pick the crew up, arrive at the field, go for breakfast! This mornings change was from green chilli soup, to just chilli! Once again, I decided to pass on this one!
The winds were quite high at the time of the briefing, so they decided to hold off and get us back in 45 minutes to see if they were to die down, the organisers were pretty sure that it would. We went back and they decided that they were going to give the go ahead to launch. It was still pretty gusty.
During the week they have competitions, so balloons launch from outside the field and try to fly into the field. We watched a few balloons launch and they went screaming out! So we decided that we weren’t going to fly.
After a while we had a call from one of our crew’s daughter that works at a primary school. We went up there and by the time we did the winds had died down quite a bit so we managed to tether the balloon for the kids.
I did the inflation of the balloon and once up, we managed to get some of the kids in the basket so they could get their photos taken!
After packing away we went back to the field to go and tailgate with our friend Patrick Chando who turned 50 today! I brought over a T-shirt for him with a bristolian saying on!
Not much more to report after this I’m afraid! I went off into the old town to have a look around. It’s very tourist orientated and there are loads if shops just selling naff stuff. And yes, I did buy something!!
Hopefully a flight in the morning. But for now….time for bed!
Sunday 7th October
So, once again the we leave the house, get the crew and get to the fiesta field. We start the usual breakfast line, picking up the first bits which are the same each day. The main change was from breakfast burrito to green chilli soup. I decided to pass on this one!
This morning they do a glow in the morning, again – this is just a case of standing the balloon up early and just using a whisper burner to keep upright until you are allowed to launch. We were part of this so we started setting up the balloon. As we were doing this the Dawn Patrol took off. Dawn patrol is a small bunch of balloons that launch before sunrise and fly off.
Each morning before any flight they have a lead balloon that takes off with the American flag and they play the national anthem. Everybody cheers and then the go aheads for launch can be given. We had the balloon stood up for quite a while and we had lots of people around the basket – there are no fences here, public can come right up to the basket.
We were given the go ahead to launch by a zebra – basically someone that gives you the go ahead to launch and they are dressed in black and white stripes….hence the name zebra!
Did I mention that I was in the basket!? Well, I was! We launched…..wow. Absolutely amazing. We took off and went up about 1500 feet and went North, then we came down and started going south back towards the field. Then we went back up and went north again, and back down and went south towards the field! This is known as the famous Albuquerque box winds.
I won’t bore you with every little detail about the flight, but we flew for an hour and 20 minutes and we landed back on the fiesta field about 2 launch squares away from where we took off! And of course, I took plenty of photos!
After flying we refuelled and tailgated with our crew.
Today was the day that the Americas challenge was to take place. This is some gas balloons flying over the USA for as long as possible, and the person that flies the furthest wins!
One of the pilots of the English team was Clive Bailey from Bristol that owns Bailey Balloons. I spent the rest of the day helping the team set up their balloon and help inflate too. It’s a very long process and it does require standing around for a very long period of time!
They launched around 6:30pm time here and were heading north. At the time of writing we are in 3rd place. But at the moment, it means nothing until they land! It’s all about tactics and seeing what everyone else does. Best of luck to both Clive and Jon.
After this we decided to head home. I then had a shower and went to sleep!
So, I know that I need to catch up with a couple of days worth of blogging. It’s been long days here and the first thing I want to do when I get back home is just sleep! I have some time now, so here we go.
Saturday 6th October
We leave the house at 4:45am to go and pick up the crew from a central meeting point, and then all drive into the fiesta site. A different rule out here is that you are able to drive with people sat in the back of a pick up truck!
Once in the fiesta site the first thing to do is breakfast. One big line and we slowly make our way down. Grab a plate and pick things up as you go along the line. So, first thing to pick up is a Krispy Kreme doughnut! Move along and you can pick up a small juice box of either apple, orange or grape, a small pack of pretzels, and and apple. The next table you grab a warm waffle and pick up some syrup at the end! Then there is the “main” bit, which changes each day. Today it was the famous breakfast burrito. Now, I was looking forward to trying this because its a famous thing here, plus lots of people back home have said to try it.
I must say, the burrito was lovely! So was the doughnut, the pretzels and the waffle!! Once that has been consumed you then go around and grab either a tea, a coffee or some cocoa. You can grab a table to sit at if there is space, but as you can imagine, there isn’t much of it!!
We then park the truck at the launch site and go to briefing. Briefing is held at a tower, all the pilots and crew gather around the bottom whilst all the officials are on the top with a microphone giving out all the details of the winds etc.
To cut a long story short, they cancelled flying because of the winds being too high.
This, for most people, means a tailgate party – basically a BBQ with other food and drinks with other teams. We decided that we were not going to because of the freezing cold wind! So all of our crew went home and I decided to have a look around the stands there with my pilot, Lori. Lots of strange things to buy and eat, but one thing that I must try before I go home is a doughnut burger! It’s a burger with bacon and cheese between two doughnuts!
After we had been around the stalls, we saw some of Lori’s friends, so we decided that we were going to tailgate with them. Lots of people. Much later on some of our crew came back and they brought a sandwich that is supposed to be really really good from the local area. I know the name but I can’t spell it, so I’m not going to even attempt to! It was very good though!
They have some night glows here and tonight was one of those nights. Now, don’t get confused here, because a night glow here is nothing like a night glow you would see at the Bristol balloon fiesta. Here, it is just a bunch of balloons randomly situated that stand the balloon up for 10 minutes or so, glow a bit, then take the balloon down. No music, no synchronising of balloons to glow etc. very different!
There were fireworks after. They started with some that went on for about 20 minutes, and to be honest, they were very dull! Lots of gaps, most of the time it was just one firework at a time and it just went in for a lot longer than it should have done! Then it moved on to a bit that was done in time, from about 10 different stations and looked really nice!
This was a very long day, so straight home and straight to sleep!!
So I finally arrived in Albuquerque after a very long flight to Dallas, and then a shorter flight to Albuquerque. As soon as I came out of the gate I was greeted by people with some random signs!! Patrick, Mo, Douglas, and Lori who I am staying with whilst I am in Albuquerque.
The first thing we went to do was to go to a bar and get something to eat and a beer! I had some nice slow cooked pork with BBQ sauce and cheese in a bun and a large beer. I say large because its massive! Bigger than a pint! And stronger too, I had 4.5%. Now, bear in mind that I don’t drink very often, we are just over 5000 feet above sea level here and I had been awake for pretty much 22 hours…..the beer took it’s toll! When we got back to the house I pretty much went to sleep straight away!!
This morning we were to do something called Albuquerque Aloft. A lot of the pilots will go around to local schools and hopefully fly from there with all the kids watching. So, we were up at 5am this morning to leave the house and get to the school.
It was a bit breezy this morning, which wasn’t really the issue, the issue was that we were about 30ft from some power wires. So unfortunately we didn’t get to fly this morning. We did, however, get the basket out and used the burners a bit for the kids to have a look at. They all loved it!
After that we went to breakfast. Wow. I had a small portion of pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs. The pancakes were huuuuge! Tasted really good though! And even though the bacon here isn’t what we’re used to, it’s actually really tasty and I could quite happily eat lots of it!
We went to the fiesta field after breakfast to fuel up, and also for me to have a look around. It’s amazingly big! I bumped into Clive Bailey and he said it makes the Bristol Balloon Fiesta look like a village fete! Very true, they certainly know how to do it big here. I also bumped into Kevin and Julie Barnes as well, which was good.
I popped into the merchandise tent…..wow! Anything that you can put a badge on, they do! They have loads of different pin badges here of all different bits. There is one for the night glow, one for the crew, one for the pilots, one for this, one for that…the list goes on! I did buy some pins, and I also bought a t-shirt and a fleece. At this rate I will have to ship stuff home, I’m only on day one and I’ve not even left Albuquerque yet, I’m in the US for 2 weeks!!
Anyway, about time we went and got some food. Hopefully flying in the morning, but it looks windy. Then a tailgate party all day! Food, beer, socialising with friends out here. Sounds brilliant!
Update later or tomorrow!
So now the waiting game has begun at the airport!
Security was a breeze, and terminal 5 is actually pretty quiet. There was no waiting to drop my bag off and even the wait at the bar for my breakfast was very short!
This is the one thing I dislike about travelling, the waiting. It’s a catch 22 situation though as you don’t want to leave it until the last minute to get through, but you also don’t want to be sat waiting for hours!
Either way, it doesn’t matter because I’m going on holiday, and the wait is justified I guess!
Time for another coffee I think!