Posts Tagged ‘balloon’
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!
So the long trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has begun.
As usual with me, it was a last minute frantic packing session last night until about half past midnight! Most likely I have forgotten something, but as I’m going to the USA, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to buy anything that I am in need of.
As you can see from the photo, I am currently sat on a National Express coach (other coach services are available) to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5! I’m tempted to get some sleep, but at the moment it’s just not going to happen. I’m currently like a little kid at Christmas, I’m really excited because I’m going to the Balloon Fiesta, but I am also pretty nervous. This is the first time I have travelled alone, and certainly the furthest I have ever travelled. I’ve never been to the USA before so I’m really looking forward to the experience.
Anyway, enough of all that, time to try and get some sleep. I will update the blog as and when I can through my travels.
Flooper (for those that know me, I am known as Flooper…Phil Hooper…..Flooper. Say it fast enough and you will understand!)
Events were due to take place all over the country to help celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Bristol was certainly out to entertain. The BWS balloon were, once again, on hand to tether and entertain the crowds that turned up to celebrate on Durdham Downs.
The day started out with pilot Phil Hooper being interviewed live on BBC Radio 1, this was a great chance to get the BWS name on the radio twice and also the Phil’s Balloons website address once as well. The ratings of this show are in the millions, so hopefully we’ve managed to get a few new people interested in the site and also aware of BWS as well!
We tethered for a full 2 hours, and we managed to get the balloon live on the local BBC news as they had their evening show being broadcast live from the event. Unfortunately the winds were very light and we didn’t get to fly as we didn’t want to be stuck over the centre of Bristol with no fuel left! Instead, we decided to stay and were the last balloon on site, staying tethered for another hour after all the other balloons had gone, much to the crowds delight.
Phil’s Balloons was delighted to bring the BWS balloon along to tether at the side of the road for when the Olympic Torch came though the Flax Bourton area of Bristol. We were on site for 5:30am to make sure we got the prime spot for all the media. We were there along with 3 other balloons and we had a fantastic view as the torch came past.
Crowds started to gather amd lots of police on motorbikes rolled through. Then a whole convoy of sponsor’s vehicles with nice loud music and lots of people on the back dancing and shouting! We managed to get on the live BBC News streaming of the torch relay, both local and national BBC and ITV news, along with a mention on BBC Radio 1 and printed local media too.
This year Phil’s Balloons has been asked to take over the flying of the BWS Security Systems hot air balloon for the next year. Phil Hooper will be flying the balloon over the skies of the South West whilst previous pilot, John Morge, is busy starting a family.
We plan to get the balloon in the air as much as we can and of course we will be at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. If you see us out in the field then please come and say hello, come and get involved, help us set the balloon up, or if we land in a field near you, then bring us a nice cup of tea (white, no sugar please!).
We have set up a Facebook page, which you can find my clicking here. We will update with launch locations, every time we fly, photos, videos and maybe something else! Like the page to find out what!
We also have twitter, and you can follow us @bwsballoonteam. Again, this will be up to date info from the field as and when we fly.
I would like to thank Derek Maltby and Chris Jenkins for the opportunity of flying their balloon and I hope to do you proud!