|Llangollen Model Hot Air Balloon Festival 2009|
|(the pictures do take a little time to down load please be patient it's worth the wait)|
AM7-40 takes `to the air' inside Dave Greens LBL77B
from left to right: Jake Bruce - Rose Harrison-Richard Bowater's new Viva
All shapes and sizes - Saturdays free flying in full swing
Far Left: Ray and Roy home in for a bombing run on the target, Right: models taking centre stage
Below: Ben and Max share the arena with Richard
Bowater's special shape tank before taking on the endurance challenge.
Night fire: Both big and small balloons put on a spectacular glow.
Below: The big boys lift off, including our own Andy Booth flying for Summerfield
Below: And they just keep coming, more new balloons took to the air on sunday
Taking place in the small town of Llangollen in North Wales, the event spanned the first weekend of September, and grew to attract a record 27 model balloons this year.
I was once again part of the organising team and planning for the event commenced pretty much as the 2008 event closed, and ramped up more in the weeks leading up to the main event.
BALLOON IN A BALLOON
With just over a week to go we started to put together advertising features for the local press including flying a model INSIDE yes INSIDE Dave Greens LBL77B type. This proved to be a little tricky with limited space but it was remarkably calm inside the balloon once rammed with cold air.
Delivering equipment to site began on Thursday afternoon and I was greeted by 4 teams already around the site pitching tents and getting their equipment into working condition.
NEW TEAMS DAY
Friday began mid afternoon with a delivery of gas, pitching my tent and preparing for the afternoons TV press (should we be needed) . In the end this duty fell to the big boys outside with a rather gusty tether.
Booking in opened informally and we began the process of laying out the indoor arena for the next day, and getting a few early flights in without much pressure from public onlookers. 2 new teams had come to take part this year, Rose Harrison from the west midlands, came with her family and VIVA built by bob trotter took it’s first flight `under new management`. Also keen to get into the air Jake Bruce, a super keen Llangollen balloon meet attendee who has been to every event staged there. He too successfully got off the ground with this newly acquired U.S. built 2700ft3 model.
As well as the newcomers several of the early arriving regulars took the chance to go out some with their own new toys.
SATURDAY `THE MAIN EVENT’
Saturday morning proved to be all but unflyable with just 1 balloon taking to the skies over Llangollen, and with the public not due to arrive on site till 11.30 the model balloonists took the opportunity to exchange safety tips, meet the new faces and complete the set up of the arena.
Saturday afternoon is really the peak of activity on site with some 6000 spectators taking in the event at any one time but well over this number coming in during the 11 hours that the gate is open. All the attending teams took to the air at a steady pace, keeping the onlookers entertained. Balloons ranged in size from Darren Lewis’s 10m3 right up to Ray Preston’s whopper 100m3 VIVA. Two special shapes attended this years event Monty Bear and the Energas cylinder, who’s pilots travelled from opposite ends of the country (Monty from Honiton in Devon - the gas tank from Stockton-on-Tees) well done you guys and thanks for your continued support of the event despite the mileage.
Keeping the pilots on their toes a target was laid out mid afternoon and the teams challenged to `fly in’. this proved an exercise in throwing, pushing and bumping your way to a target. Indoor ballooning is in the slightest of breezes which most people figured would never get them to the target.
Ray Preston came 1st with a precision landing of just 4cm from the centre of the cross. (honest)
THE `LITTLE BIG' REUNION 1984 to 2009
A personal highlight for me was the flight of a balloon I first saw at a balloon meet in 1984 when I was just 6 years old. Tim Ward and I have chatted but not met since then, and after prizing him away from his yearly pilgrimage to Chatsworth house balloon meet, we finally came face to face again. Tim with his balloon and me with the same `fisher price` action man parachute which we had dropped some 25 years earlier - Cue the re-enactment.
This was also the first opportunity for our model pilots to have a serious attempt at the record setting endurance challenge. This now, in it’s second year had no formal `records’ to speak of having been presented in 2008 to Andy Horton for spending `most of the weekend in the air` flying his and other people balloons.
So step up the first two entrants brothers Max and Ben Alford from Bristol - keen to impress in their twin red and yellow envelopes, they were competing in the two categories. The basic theory is `carry the most fuel’ have the longest flight. To prevent an all out arms race to haul more powerful and bigger fuel supplies into the air Category 1 is restricted to balloons with just 1 fuel supply and 1 burner can / coil. Balloons in this category can also take the Category 2 class should they fly longer than balloons in this class. With no record in existence Max Alford stepped up and flew his 50m3 Category 1 to an all class record of 47 minuets.
Brotherly rivalry led to Ben soon pushing the category 2 record out to 54 minuets in his 50m3 envelope. This in tern sparked a good deal of conversation with a remarkable difference of only 7 minuets despite a doubling of fuel available.
With no flight taking place in the main outdoor arena due to gusty winds, the models continued to take centre stage till well into the evening. I must admit I left them too it as the evening went on and headed out into the growing dark, to take my post as maestro for the `night glow’ out in the arena. I’m happy to say that this went well with 7 of the big balloons, 1 basket and 3 models blasting away on their burners to the music of Superman, disco inferno, scouting for girls, Robert Miles `children` and the Noisettes.
Rounded off with a big firework display across the Llangollen valley, a few drinks round the camp fire and a well earned crash into my sleeping bag.
SUNDAY WAKE UP CALL
The alarm rang at 5.45am ready for a 6 o’clock briefing, and with low winds 15 or so balloons flew from the site, in sunny calm conditions. I took the opportunity to sit back enjoy a bacon sandwich and enjoy the spectacle.
At 11 o’clock the model teams all gathered for a prize giving - (everyone gets something) and Max and Ben were jointly awarded 1st for their efforts in the endurance on the Saturday.
I’m proud to have been involved for the 4th year as a an organiser for this event, and on Sunday morning a brief period was given over to discussing the formation of a balloon club something I thought on that first year would never happen - Those in attendance agreed to rally behind modelballoonsuk as the name and internet site based location to form the club, forum, notice board for events, technology exchange and friendly competition.
SATURDAYS RECORDS START TO FALL
Back into the indoor arena for another major session of flying in which both Ray Preston and Andy Booth had a good go at the endurance task. Andy took the time out to 57minuets with his striped down Category 2 balloon equipment (even his pilot bear was striped down). But Ray with his 12 litres of fuel and 100m3 envelope was anticipated to smash the record set the day before for the Category 2 balloon, and did not fail in his attempt taking the record out to 68 minuets. Interesting to note that despite double the volume and 3 times the fuel quantity haled into the air, all equated to just 11 minuets flying time.
5 AMBalloons lifted off together in what for me was the grand finally of the weekend - thanks everyone who helped make that happen.
Outside the balloons tethered for the public including a special shape battery, and action man, who braved a little `light’ rain to display in the increasing breeze of the afternoon, Things began to wind down as the weather closed in and the model teams began their journeys back to normal life.
Thanks to everyone who came and I hope you had as good a time as I did.