One Man Balloons or Cloud Hoppers
Back in 1987 before Adventure Balloons became the major passenger balloon ride company around the London area, director Kim Hull used to get called up from time to time by "The Man in the White Suit" Mike Kendrick of the then named Virgin Airship and Balloon Company.
Mike would ask Kim to go to a balloon event like the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and fly a one man balloon, generally just around the show ground itself, sometimes "stacking" one hopper on top of other hoppers (five high was the eventual record!) or just larking about to attract the attention of photographers in the hope that the media would give the balloon sponsors some brand publicity.
A Cloud Hopper as they are know in the trade has a single burner coil just above the pilot's head, a gas tank which straps on the back of the pilot and a bosun's chair for the pilot to sit on. You can spin yourself round and this is important on landing because you have to come in backwards otherwise on a fast landing you stood a good chance of getting a leg injury.
The highlight of Kim's "hopping" was the Australian Bi-Centennial Celebrations when Mike asked Kim to "stunt a hopper across Australia". Of course the Cloud Hopper was a wow with the thrill seeking Australia media and Kim's party piece became taking off alongside the larger Continental Airlines 4 passenger balloon, holding onto a rope attached to the top of this balloon and then warming up to climb up the rope and "stand" on the top of the balloon.
So successful was the combination of Kim and the Cloud Hopper in grabbing media attention that by the late 1980's most "marketing" balloons taken to shows and events had a Cloud Hopper to back up either a conventional balloon taking 3 or 4 of the sponsors guests or a special shape balloon and several other pilots took the Cloud Hopping craze further. Chris Dunkley did a bit of trick flying with a hopper and a penny farthing!
To see One Man Balloons in action try the Bristol Balloon Fiesta in August or the annual One Man Meet organised by Clive Bailey of www.baileyballoons.co.uk.
For more information about Cloud Hoppers see www.cloudhoppers.org