Our small Happy Birthday balloon continues to make news. This time a balloon flight from England to France in a hot air balloon.

We had been on standby since the beginning of October 2010 for the first Channel Crossing by hot air balloon since 2005. October and early November failed to deliver the required North Westerly winds to blow us to France by the shortest route from Dover to somewhere close to Calais. With the duration of normal hot air balloon rides being only about an hour, more gas can replace passengers to enable a longer flight, but a crossing with a speed or direction in excess of 2 hours would be tricky or result in a wet finish if you ran out of fuel before landfall. You also need sufficient time once airborne to check that the wind on the day is as promised by the weather forecasters or land before the coast!

There is a lot of preparation required for an event like this and even though the organisers at Airborne Balloons and their team of eager volunteers would be doing most of the logistical organisation, there is still plenty to do to the balloon. Extra fuel tanks have to be added without taking up too much space in the basket, radios, cameras, sandwiches and chocolate needed to be accommodated too. Immersion suits and a self inflating 4 person life raft were hired from and to save space the life raft was attached to the outside of the basket as was one of the fuel tanks.

A false alarm for a weather window on Monday 4th April suddenly turned into the real thing a few days later. Five o'clock in the morning arriving in the dark at Lydden Hill Motor Racing circuit for the mass ascent and an attempt on the world record for the greatest number of balloons flying the channel. Sponsors Palletways were very hopeful. A safety briefing at 6am was followed by balloons taking off from soon after 6.30am. Our own balloon took off at 7.15am, carrying probably the youngest person to ever fly over the channel by balloon, then flew over Dover Castle, overtook the ferry as we sped along at speeds of up to 30knots at 1,000 feet (nearly twice the speed we could safely fly passengers) and having flown over Calais Harbour we landed at Calais Airport at 8.45am, covering about 25 miles in a hour and a half.

Here are some pictures from the flight but a video will soon be coming which will show you some more detail of the flight! Watch this space.

Click photos to enlarge
Happy Birthday Balloon flying over English Channel Leaving Dover Harbour on a hot air balloon flight Hot air balloon ride take off from Lydden Hill Motor Racing Circuit in Kent on the Cross Channel balloon flight Hot air balloons flying over Dover Castle and the English Channel Hot air balloon flight towards France over the English Channel Cross Channel Hot Air Balloon Flight getting into immersion suits Hot air balloons and ferries on the English Channel crossing

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