Inflation Day 2024

Well, here we go again – preparations have begun as the next Inflation Day fast approaches, and I’m pleased to announce once again David Hopkins has agreed to host the event, for which we are extremely grateful! That means that the event will be held on David’s land just off Fen Road, Pidley near Huntingdon where we had the 2022 event (here’s hoping for ballooning weather!) with the chosen date being:
Saturday 27th April 2024
It’s early days with the planning but one or two minor changes over entry have already been agreed! As before, we are very keen to encourage pilots to bring a balloon and bottom end and will offer pilot plus 2 free entry tickets, (balloon envelope only will gain one free entry) no charge for anyone 16 years and under! Balloon registration will be required prior to the event – the form will appear on the BBM&L website in the new year and be available at Icicle. BBM&L Friends and LAASi members (I’m very pleased to say that LAASi have again agreed to sponsor the event) will pay an entry donation of £5 (proof of current membership will be required and MUST be shown on the gate – no proof then the charge will be £10). ALL OTHER visitors will be charged a £10 entry! With no bank card facilities available at the gate, please bring CASH (don’t forget enough for a commemorative event pin (£5), remember we are a charity, and this is one of the major fund-raising events in our calendar!
Whilst there are many modern balloons registered prior to 1974, we have chosen this year as representing a 50-year celebration of modern ballooning, (1974 to 2024) as a theme, but of course as ever, all balloons are welcome to attend – especially early ones! Being on David Hopkins private land there will be limited facilities, but toilets and a food wagon will be available. Most of the event area will be on grass so disabled access will be difficult but never-the-less will be most welcome! Lakeside Lodge Golf centre is at the bottom of Fen Road and has very good facilities, including bookable accommodation as most who have attended previous events will be aware!
Briefing is planned to be 08:30 but will be confirmed nearer the date. Any balloons registered on or before 27th April 2009 and registered for the event could be eligible for a prize, and as ever selected winners will be at the discretion of the BBM&L Council and relating to the achievements on the day, prize winners will be announced at prize giving which will take place at a time to be announced towards the end of the afternoon!
The BBM&L is looking forward to hosting the event once again and hope the weather will be kind on the day! Put the date in your diaries and we look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday 27th April 2024.
Tim Turner
BBM&L Secretary & Event Co-Ordinator

Bristol Belle launches from Ark Royal


Terry Adams has enjoyed an illustrious career in ballooning but before that he was a dashing young Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and surely his most memorable flight was in G-AVTL Bristol Belle from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal on 29 November 1970.

The story is told in Trailrope #129 (Winter 2022)  but after several false starts Adams ‘commanded’ the carrier to steam towards the island from the west and after a tricky launch he successfully landed on Malta – the first ever balloon to do so.

After a drop of champagne, Terry cadged a lift to the Post Office and franked 4,000 flight covers , one of which is safely stored in the museum library.


Balloon takes telescope to 81,000ft to view Venus

On 28 November 1959 the Stratolab IV balloon ascended to 81,000 feet with a 16 inch Schmidt infra red telescope attached to the top of the gondola. The 2 million cu.ft. balloon was made of polyethylene.

Inside were pilots Malcolm Ross and Charles Moore who used the telescope to perform spectrograph analysis of the water vapour in the atmosphere of Venus thus demonstrating that an observatory can be taken aloft.

Charles Moore is remembered for making the first manned flight beneath a polyethylene balloon on 3 November 1949.  Malcolm Ross flew all five flights of the Stratolab programme  and went on to pilot more high altitude balloon flights to to accomplish research required for the manned rocket program to follow.



World altitude record hot air balloons

On 26 November 2005 Dr.Vijaypat Singhania broke the world altitude recode for hot air balloons after reaching 68,986 feet in Mumbai, India.

Cameron Balloons built him a 1.6 million cu ft balloon and he  flew in a sophisticated pressurized gondola built by Andy Elson and the Flying Pictures engineering team in Glastonbury, England.

The unusual burners used kerosene rather than the more conventional propane fuel. After landing the balloon envelope was released and then flew on its own for a further eight hours before landing. It was later found near a village, the burner had been stripped and much of the envelope was missing!



Parachute from balloon

It was on this day 16 November 1959 that American balloonist Joe Kittinger made the first high altitude jump.  As part of the Execlsior 1 test programme they wanted to test the first ‘space suit’ and because there wasn’t a plane that could fly that high an enormous balloon took Kittinger to 76,400 feet from where he jumped.

He landed safely and the next year he jumped from 102,800ft – a record which stood until Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000ft in 2012 and his record was broken by Google executive Alan Eustace in 2014 by parachuting from 135,890ft. ( Story in WIRED magazine)

Joe Kittinger triumphed again in 1984 by becoming the first pilot to fly a balloon solo across the Atlantic.  He died aged 94.

First manned balloon across the Pacific.


As the crew of Double Eagle V crossed the Californian coast at 9pm on 12 November 1981 they had already been in the air for 82 hours since leaving Nagashima in Japan at 3am.

The picture shows them at 15,000ft floating past Mt. Fuji hoping for 26,000ft – an altitude that they failed to reach.  Once east of Japan at 19,000ft they accumulated ice on top of the balloon which plagued them throughout the flight, the extra weight dictating altitudes which resulted in average speeds of 68mph.

They were not always able to follow their meteorologist’s advice because of  ballast limitations but they did reach 17,000ft east of Hawaii and 100mph. At 2am on November 12 they crossed the international date line and thus turned the calendar back one day.

A long period of nearly level flight conserved precious ballast, indicating the ice had not punctured the enormous polyethylene balloon 4.5 millionths of an inch thick, but speed a disappointing 43 mph.

Ben Abruzzo was captain and Larry Newman co-captain and radio navigator – both veterans of the first balloon across the Atlantic in 1978 . Ron Clark and Rocky Aoki were the other two pilots.  They spent four days and five nights in their capsule and survived on an austere but nourishing diet of oranges, energy bars, dried beef and peanut butter sandwiches.  Half way through the flight chef Rocky treated them to a sumptuous feast of fresh beef, noodles and vegetable cooked on the little propane stove.

The first approach to land in torrential rain took them towards houses so they dropped all the ballast within reach and climbed back into cloud.  The next descent ended with a ‘massive jolt’ on a shrub-covered hillside and Abruzzo fired the explosive bolts to jettison the balloon. They were down after 5,768 miles – a new world’s distance record.

Ballooning Bonanza Weekend.



The weekend of October 8/9 saw a veritable feast of ballooning in Britain starting with the launch of The Queen’s Cup Balloon Race in Taunton, Somerset. The BBAC were invited to lay on an event where pilots would compete for the Queen’s Cup,  the oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy in the UK, dating back to 1719 and entrusted to the Royal Aero Club by Her Majesty The Queen for which different disciplines of aviation would compete .

Nine balloons launched and Dom Bareford managed to fly for 8½ hours and landed at Manston Airfield on the Kent coast. Richard Penney in the event sponsor’s AUDI balloon landed further back in Kent after 9 hours. All flying with AVANTI’s bioLPG based on advanced bioethanol produced from waste.

Race teams then drove to various sites around UK to add to their total distance on sunday morning. Dom started from Preston and scored a winning total distance of 442 km.  We hope to bring you the story in the next TRAILROPE.  ( Video of launch)

To coincide with this race the BBAC invited all the regions to encourage pilots to fly in The Great British Balloon Launch and the response was wonderful with balloons flying from their home patches far and wide. (See map.)

Up in Shropshire there were 29 balloons attending the annual One Man Meet where sunday’s winds gave easy launches and ‘lively’ landings.

Across the pond the annual Gordon Bennett Balloon Race was hosted in Albuquerque where the French winners reached the east coast after flying 2661 km.  The British team of John Rose and Debbie Scholes landed after 1000 km with unreliable battery power.





Trailblazing English balloonist Margaret Graham, who currently lies in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Hackney’s Magnificent Seven cemetery and park, is the subject of a new fundraising campaign.
The local volunteer-led Trust has set a £5,000 target to pay for the memorial.
Mrs Graham was a pioneer of early female flight, showbiz celebrity and intrepid reporter who wrote gripping accounts of her aerial exploits.
And now the Abney Park Trust, which looks after the park’s ecology, history and community in partnership with Hackney Council, has paired up with Sharon Wright – journalist and author of “The Lost History of the Lady Aeronauts”.
The two are working together to honour Mrs Graham by raising money for a fitting memorial to her remarkable life.
To donate towards the headstone,  CLICK HERE.
All details on the website HERE.
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