Terry Adams.

Terry Adams was a long-term friend of the BBM&L  and this morning breathed his last after a spell in a care home in South Africa where he made his home for may years.

You can read about one of his finest hours when he flew Bristol Belle from the deck of HMS Ark Royal.  Story Here.

Fellow balloon pilot Tracy Robb in South Africa sent this wonderful tribute…..

Terence Alfred Adams

6 May 1941 – 9 December 2023

A tribute by Tracy Robb



I have been browsing through Terry’s meticulously maintained and illustrated logbooks as well as listening to fairly recent voice recordings of him reminiscing about his early flying days.  This is my abridged tribute to the wonderful flamboyant gentleman who brought ballooning to South Africa.

Terrys Adam’s illustrious flying career, of which hot air ballooning was his greatest passion, started in 1961 when obtained his Gliding certificate #3105.  He then went on to flying fixed wing aircraft – Chipmunks, Jet Provosts, Hunters and Gannets. Terry also served in the Royal Navy on HMS Ark Royal.

At 17 years old, Terry’s Air Scout Master, George Dunkley, took the senior air scouts on a gliding trip high up in the Yorkshire hills at Sutton Bank near where Slingsby sailplanes were built.  After passing his A levels he was accepted at the Bristol Aero Plane College, on a 5-year apprenticeship as an aeronautical engineer.

Terry became a member of the Bristol Gliding club where he met fellow gliding students Don Cameron, Mark Westwood and Giles Bulmer. They took plastic bags, filled them with hot air and released them.  The bags got bigger and bigger and according to Terry the biggest one they made was 15ft in diameter with a brazier underneath filled with cotton wool soaked in methylated spirits.  They launched their contraption one morning and it flew into Gloucestershire, landing on the front lawn of a cottage. The bag obscured the windows, creating darkness and the elderly lady inside phoned the police. The Sergeant who arrived was a social member of the gliding club, he chastised the group of four, advising them that any aerial object over 2m in diameter had to have a licence!  After this Terry went to America briefly and Don, Mark and Giles joined up with Malcom Brighton to build the first “Bristol Belle” out of an early form of uncoated nylon.  When Terry returned to the UK, Gerry Turnbull had got involved as he was a gas balloon pilot. The blind workshops in Bristol made the first basket and Terry’s description of the first burner was “it was very nasty”.  They put wheels on the basket as it was thought it would make the basket more manouverable.  Gerry did the first flight of the Bristol Belle in 1967 from Weston on the Green near Oxford using gas tanks borrowed from the RAF.  The balloon envelope split from top to bottom not long after take off, due in part to the lack of horizontal load tapes.  The balloon was rebuilt and back at Bristol Gliding Club, Tom Sage, Bill Williams and Charles Meisel had joined the group.  In 1967 Terry had his first flight with Mark Westwood, their first approach to landing was to an open field with one tree in it and they hit the tree. (Some things never change in ballooning!)  Terry was hooked and he bought a share in the Bristol Belle and the owners called themselves The Hot Air Group. Bristol Belle was registered as an HAG1 with the registration G-AVTL.

His immaculately maintained logbooks show flights from 1969 with Don Cameron, Kevin Meehan, Joe Philp, Tom Sage and Anne Lewis Smith – to mention but a few of the familiar names of the pioneers of ballooning as we know it today.  Terry then got an Omega 84 G-AXJB named Jester, and this was followed by a Western 65 G-AZOO called Carousel.

In August 1969 Terry’s younger brother Mike started learning the art of ballooning as well.  Mike was tragically killed in a balloon accident a few years later.  Terry adored his brother and loved to reminisce about the times they had together.

In 1970 Giles Turnbull sent Terry solo in G-AXJB his Omega 84 called Jester.  His logbooks describe some interesting flights similar to many of us from the early days.  Here are some comments: “Turbulent flight – overshoot, bounced over harvester”,” Low level flight with flameouts due to blocked pilot lights”, “Running inflation, Low Level with heavy landing”.

On February 13th 1973, the first World Hot Air Balloon Championships took place in Albuquerque USA. Terry’s logbooks record the following: Event one – Hare and hounds, Event two – Level Barograph task, Event three – Step Barograph task, Event four – Hurdle Barograph task.

1976 November 29 – Terry flew “Bristol Belle” off the deck of HMS Ark Royal in the Mediterranean Sea and landed 30 minutes later in an open field in Malta.  This was a world first and a tremendous achievement for both Terry and his co-pilot Lt. Howard Draper.

Terry’s first flight in South Africa was recorded in May 1976 at Baragwanath airfield in a Western 65 G-BCDV (ZS-HOA) known as Golden Eagle.

The Southern Sun Balloon meet held in the Drakensberg in 1976 saw competitors from all over the world arriving in South Africa and it was after this meet that Terry elected to stay in South Africa and settled in at Mike & Jeanette van Ginkel’s cottage in Parkhurst for a few years.

Soon followed the maiden flight of a Thunder AX7-77, ZS-HGE “Afrox” on March 27, 1977. Next, Terry did the maiden flight of the first balloon ever built in South Africa, a Flamboyant AX7-65 ZS-HOT “Angel Baby”.  Jeanette van Ginkel had commissioned Terry to build the balloon for her and continued her training with Terry in her own balloon.


This was the birth of Flamboyant Balloons and Terry began building many more balloons.   Most of the older pilots in SA learnt to fly in early Flamboyant Balloons. Banana rips, Dutch lacing, semi-circular Velcro rips, tie offs, side dumps, no fans, no burner poles, no radios, no digital instruments, numerous welding strikers, hard helmets and squirty old burners were the order of the day.  We knew how to map read both on retrieve and in flight. One day Terry went to the Society for the Blind to get a basket woven and there he met his long-time partner and friend Anne.  Terry and Anne would sit until all hours of the morning cutting and sewing balloons together in the Oxford Street, Randburg workshop which was always abuzz with activity.  Many of us old school pilots worked there either part or full time learning the art of building balloons.  Naturally, there was never a shortage of strong, hot tea. Terry built a total of 47 Flamboyant balloons, a few of which are still flying today.


Numerous events were masterminded by Terry in the 80’s and ballooning in South Africa literally took off with 2 International Festival races to Durban (another whole chapter of stories in itself) and large international meets were held almost every 2 years.  South African ballooning was in its glory with numerous corporate sponsored balloons and pilots gathering every weekend to fly out in the 4 ways or Magaliesberg areas.  Terry worked tirelessly behind the scenes of these events as well as taking part in them.

Always helpful to new and trainee pilots, Terry never asked for a fee, we had to crew 5 times to earn flight.  Terry was extremely generous in giving new pilots sponsored balloons to fly and this is how many of us built our hours and experience travelling all over South Africa doing promotions and having fun.

Terry continued in his later years as an advisor or crew member to pilots competing at international events. His passion for balloon philately ensured a massive collection of first day covers and stamps.  Terry was also passionate about old books on early aviation and aeronautics, not to mention the collection of poster, flags, pins and memorabilia from almost every balloon event from the 70’s onwards.  Terry never threw anything away, and amassed a plethora of ballooning and aviation history going as far back as the Boer War.

Along with the van Ginkels, Terry was a founder of the Pioneer Balloon Club, which was recently resurrected by Felicity Clegg and myself. It is hoped that this will encourage a return to the fun days that sport ballooning offers.  In 2022 and 2023 there was a gathering of the old “Dinosaur” balloons – this was the largest number of South African balloons together since 1981.  Terry attended both events and the joy it brought to him was seen and felt by all.  He was so emotional at seeing all the old bags getting some air as well as catching up with pilots and friends whom he had not seen for a while.

In the past few years Terry had slowed down a lot, but still retained his incredibly sharp mind and he loved sitting with friends and reminiscing with stories and laughter.  Sadly, his diabetes got the better of him and his last 4 weeks were challenging for him.  He stayed positive right to the end and he passed away quietly and in peace.

Thank you to all who supported him in the last difficult months, weeks and days.  Your unwavering dedication to visits, transport to medical facilities and overall caring made Terry feel very loved and cared for.

Condolences go to his sisters Myra and Gaye and their extended families, as well as to his ballooning friends from all over the world.  Tributes have been coming in from Officers who served with him on the HMS Ark Royal as well as balloon pilots, crew and friends worldwide.



Terry’s last flight was on 1st May 2023.  Terry just loved the flight!


A life lived to the full – it was an honour and a privilege to have known and flown with Terry Adams.


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