The Magic of Gas Ballooning – Episode 1

The lure of my flying in the prestigious Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race scheduled for late September 2018 would not leave me. So I gave in to the desire and set about finding my co-pilot (a requirement of the event rules). Next step to arrange pre-event flights to fine tune my skills and for Tanys to gain her gas rating. As no gas ballooning exists in Australia we are forced to look to Europe for support.

After a 24 flight from Sydney to Dusseldorf we are in Germany heading for Gladbeck and the expertise of Willi Eimers.

48 hours have passed since our arrival. We have completed two amazing balloon flights.

This morning we were out of bed at 1am to prepare the gas balloon and gear for a 3am launch into the night sky. Lift off was gentle. A white and red German balloon launched earlier and its photo is featured in this post. Our balloon the yellow D-OWS found its equilibrium to settle at an altitude of 2600 feet AGL.

How serene and delicate the world below. Complete quiet in the balloon basket floating at 10kms above all. The balloon is happy. The pilots content but for two of us buzzing with pure joy at this fantabulous experience. Willi makes himself comfortable in the corner in a chair and goes to sleep. Around 5.30am the first glow of the dawn appears on the horizon followed by a blood red sun pushing its way through smoggy cloud in the distance. No camera could capture the image with the respect it deserves.

Breakfast is served at 7.00am. We are offered drinks also. By 9.30am the balloon’s envelope is responding to the increased heat of the day causing the hydrogen to expand. We begin looking for possible landing sites amongst the city we drift above. I could see only 2 green spaces. My adrenaline kicks in. Would we find the wind direction to get us to either space?

My prayers are answered. Landing in a great field to be greeted by the local lady of the house. Not a friendly greeting. She does not like balloons so we accommodate her concern and fly off, finding another field about 600 metres over the hill. Three locals wave as the balloon lands. We are home at last – back on Mother Earth.