Well, if you remember, I left you when I was flying around with Barbara
and Chris's plane. Well, as I rejoin you, I'm still doing that. Only
now we're above their house and barns.
In the yard you can see a glider trailer - they've got 2 gliders - and
a horse box, for their 2 donkeys. They also have 6 cats, 2 dogs, 2
ducks, 5 hens, and a deep yellow MGB to go with their 3 balloons and
2 houses. It will surprise no one, and I'm sure they won't mind me
saying it, that as a result of all these toys they've got no
money left! The
renovation of the farmhouse, more or less centre of the photo, is on
hold for the moment, while they live in the improved pig sties lower
After the flight was a dinner at the flying club, based at the
aerodrome. It was Tete de veaux. (Calf's head) I didn't like it.
Maybe it's an acquired taste.
Next day a couple more inspections, in the small field top left of the
above photo. Kevin with a Lindstrand, and Julien, with a Cameron.
Julien had driven from Brest, an 800 mile round trip. Both balloons
are getting on a bit, but both passed.
Next morning I took the pretty route to drive home but didn't have a
lot of time to
stop although I dawdled a bit at first following the river Gartempe.
In St Junien I bought lunch in the supermarket and was tempted by the
special offer on some shoes. I bought 2 pairs. Soon after I found
another Château, at Rochechouart. It's not actually very hard to find
Châteaux in France, they are all over the place. (Châteaux is the
plural of château. This is an educational update.)
This was a rather nice little lake just off my route.
Back home and more paperwork. An unbelievable amount and unbelievably
stupid. There is no way that the EASA bean counters in Cologne, who
very obviously have no real knowledge of balloon operations, can hope
to improve on the old system, which over 30 years in the UK had a 100%
record. I know of no problems whatsoever that can be connected to the
annual inspection of balloons over that period.
I must here declare a vested interest. It was me, 30 years ago, who
developed the old system in the UK, with maximum emphasis on safety,
concern with paperwork. My efforts were recognised at the time, I
received the Tissandier Diploma from the International Aeronautical
Federation for this and similar work, presented to me by Prince
Andrew. I doubt
counters will be so recognised. Except maybe by the Bean Counters
Federation, with an award for the largest increase in incomprehensible
Well, we live today. So when I got back home I started checking
through the paperwork. Wow! This is really going to increase the
safety, and stop people being killed. Except there weren't any being
killed before, not connected to the annual inspection anyway. Not
many others either, for any reason.
17 pages of complicated questions. Not enough space on my desk for all
the papers. Some call it the European Agency for the Suppression of
Aviation. They, the bean counters, prefer, I am sure, that the S
should stand for safety but that's a joke. Here's my room while I am
trying to check the paperwork.
Finally, after messing with the papers, I got to fly. That's why we
still bother with the paperwork. At least the bean counters can't take
that pleasure away from us. I'm sure they'd like to.
This, below, is the hamlet where I
live. I took off from that little patch of green just showing mid
I could have picked a better field for the landing. It had been a
maize field, the old sharp stalks were still there, It took for ever to
pack the balloon up without risking it on the stalks.
We flew again the next day. Here is my village. As you can see, a
and looking at it from the other direction. I've marked our start
We landed right next to the road this time, with no problems from maize
The next night was planned for an Irish night at a nearby village, to
celebrate St Patrick's day, so no flying. Drinking Guinness took
priority. Hazel, English neighbour, said she had drunk half a Jamieson
too many, but it was not apparent from her demeanour.
But Sunday was OK. I forgot my camera, so no photos. It
was faster, but with 2 recent flights under my belt I had recovered 90%
of my previous skills, (it's nearly 2 years since I last flew a
balloon), so a nice flight with an easy landing. 9 miles in 45
minutes. I told the farmer where we landed that the balloon was 32
years old. But it looks new he said. He's right. It does. My
passenger, a neighbour, Julien, is 17. The balloon is nearly twice his