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Meet the Pilots of the B&A Hot Air Balloon

B&A balloon Branded Trailer

Derek Maltby & Rob Clements are the pilots of the B&A balloon, and they’ve written a few words on its first fiesta ascent!

Derek Maltby:

The balloon is a pleasure to fly, being responsive in flight and is also economical on gas/fuel usage.

The 105,000 cubic feet balloon, registered as G-JIMA is a pleasure to fly and looks beautiful too. It can take a pilot plus three passengers. It is also getting the message out to the public to be aware of Meningitis Now, a very worthwhile charity.

Our flight yesterday morning took us over thousands of people crowded into Ashton Court to watch this annual spectacle. We were one of 58 balloons to fly and started with a low flight over the crowd to wet them with the ’super-soaker’; they loved it. As we sent out a jet of water you could hear the cloud laughing whilst they watched to see who the water would land on!!

The flight, where we went up to 1,750 feet took us across the centre of Bristol; we remained high to get the winds that would take us more easterly. Had we flown lower, we would have travelled more to the north where there are less landing sites.

We eventually left the city and looked to land which we did on Rodway Common with a number of other balloons. We flew for an hour and ten minutes and still had enough fuel for another hours flight! Lots of local neighbours came to see us when we landed and lots of children were able to get into JIMA’s basket to see if they wanted to become budding pilots!

Yesterday evening we were one of only a handful of pilots to brave the strong winds and gusts to tether the balloon in front of the many thousands of visitors who had come to with the night-glow. After tethering for about half an hour, we deflated JIMA who performed very well in incredibly challenging conditions.

Rob Clements:

I love everything about flying including the pre-flight build up. It is a combination of excitement, trepidation and planning.

The planning of the flight is extremely important and part of the fun. I enjoy going through the process of checking the equipment, the fuel, the weather and crew briefings, the speed we are likely to be travelling at and where we might land. It is lovely getting to know and brief my passengers and give them a safe and delightful experience. All is part of the fun.

Being in the air and flying safely and giving my passengers an enjoyable experience is my main priority. The choice of the direction of flight, abiding by the rules of flight, steering the balloon using varying heights to achieve different directions, making sure we are at the correct heights and keeping the balloon level. This is the world I love.

Even though we tend to do 10 miles an hour flying safely is exhilarating. Enjoying a lovely landing, feeling the wind and elements and seeing the world in a completely different way.

Apart from all that, there is a great buzz in having happy passengers.

Keeping it factual:

The balloon flew for 1hr and 10 mins and used approximately 100 litres of gas.

We landed at Rodway Common after flying at 1000-1750 feet over The City of Bristol, in a grassy field. We initially had a choice to land at The Downs as many pilots chose to fly at a relatively low level over towards the direction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but we opted to progress at high level thus achieving a more easterly track over the City. The morning’s flight was a good example of how, to a degree, it is possible to ‘steer’ a balloon using winds at different heights.

We flew directly over the centre of Bristol, with superb views from above Park St, Cabot Circus and then on past Speedwell and on towards the direction of Warmley for a safe and soft landing.

This was the balloon second flight albeit my first as Pilot in Charge.

The passengers Helen and Russ smiled throughout the flight!

Our balloon will be flying through the sky for years to come. One of the key priorities for the B&A balloon is to raise money to fund research that aims to increase understanding of meningitis and related septicaemia.

For more information about Meningitis Now, visit:

To celebrate the launch of our brand new balloon, we’re giving you the chance to win a brand new Fitbit Charge 3.

To enter, snap a photo of the B&A balloon and tag us or email the photo to The winner will be announced on the 30th of September!

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