Ruby Balloon Flight Planning

Check Out Flight

Nicky and Tina New Year 2000 comes and at last, the first opportunity to fly since I got my medical back in September. A phone call later and Chris Dunkley has agreed to check me out at the Icicle Meet. He has another check flight, but then he will come back and jump in with me. "Call me on Saturday, I'll be at the Icicle show, to confirm the details". Now Chris is not always where you expect him to be and sure enough he wasn't at the show, in the bar or on his mobile. Eventually after a mad ring round to pin him down, the elusive young man was finally located some time after dark. Yes it was on!!!

The day dawns, clear skies, a gentle wind and gradually a crew constitutes itself. Matthew Baker hacks round the M25 to the M3 from St. Albans, Diane Ollis collects Don Dovey in the village on her way over. Last minute preparations such as packing some sandwiches and picking up Barry Harcourt from Bracknell complete the preparations and we are ready to set off. I must remember to get a weather forecast before I leave home. After checking out the traffic along most of the length of the M4 we finally arrive to find the organisation in the process of packing up but still willing to accept a late entry fee.

We gingerly take the car and trailer onto the field at Warren Farm and get most of the way to where we want to be before going into terminal wheel spin. Rumours spread fast and lots of people come over to wish me luck and offer words of advice. Then Chris arrives and immediately sets off for a cup of tea. The crew leap into action and soon everything is ready for the off.

Jonathan, aged 7 going on 27, doesn't do his normal trick of pointing out anything I miss in my briefing and Bethany the just 4 year old, looks very fetching in her new sparkly fur hat. Thank heavens Fiona came along to ride herd on them!!

Briefings complete, the cold inflation starts. You really do need to get a move on if you want to do up all the velcros on the parachute. Still no harm done, stop the fan and let it come down.

A gentle climb out into straight and level. "Would you like to do an approach into the middle of that wood?" No not really cos if I get it wrong...... Still in for a penny in for a pound. Stay high over the power lines and swoop down. Not bad even if I say so myself. Sensitive area coming up lets get a bit of height on.

It is interesting the things you notice from above. I could see the canal, but what were those lines at regular intervals? As we get closer I can see they are fishing rods, was there a competition on? Still I must keep my mind on what I am doing, time to make another approach into a rather large field. Over the stables and down we go aiming for the front edge. Stunned and amazed and down where I wanted to be, whilst we are here there are lots of open fields, so lets try some contour flying.

We keep below the ridge line and try to get enough left to land by Europe Balloon. Another call to the retrieve; not quite enough left but over the road and down into the field.

Did I want to go on a do my solo? Yes please! My exams run out next week, but discretion wins out. The country side down wind becomes more horsy and consists of lots of small fields. Too late to retrieve and re-launch from Warren Farm, so a with a muddy crew it is off down to the pub for a celebratory pint.

This is my kind of flying.