The thought of entertaining one hundred young kids for the afternoon would turn most of us Dad’s cold. It would require the standard excuse off “Sorry luv I have work commitments that day”.
But my job is flying passengers on hot air balloon rides. So that particular get out clause was not available when Crispin from The Southwater Junior Academy got in contact. Usually these requests come in for summer fetes when the air is hot and the thermals are rising. In these conditions flying a hot air balloon is savage. OK to fly a branded balloon for a company when just the pilot gets thrashed around but way too dangerous to carry someone else’s child on board.
However Crispin’s request was for a November tether. At this time of year with cold air inversions it is possible to fly a hot air balloon all day. You just can’t land and retrieve a big hot air rides balloon because the fields are too slippery and boggy with mud to get the vehicle and trailer on and off. So we fly our small four man hot air balloons usually just for fun. It’s our wind down time before the Christmas gifts rush.
Crispin told us that the kids have been studying James Mayhew’s Miranda the Explorer. Published by Orion Books their website says Miranda wins a balloon ride. But the rope snaps and away she goes, over seas, mountains, and deserts. She touches down at the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, flies over the Great Wall of China, visits Japan and almost falls into a river full of crocodiles in Australia.
Now there is a girl after my own heart. Flying India and Australia in the winter are two trips I have yet to do.
As the kids climb into the basket they have obviously been listening in class. Where is the Parachute Valve they ask so I show them but hurriedly grab the red for danger rope attached to it incase they want to experiment. Most call out “I can see my house” so I guess that’s something Miranda says in the book although some of them actually can.
I have to take my hat off to The Southwater Junior Academy’s Headmaster for making his pupils classes real. And making the kids associated dreams come true. If their parents and neighbors want to do likewise they only have to travel a short distance away from the local Gatwick Airports Controlled Airspace to our hot air balloon rides launch site at Wisborough Green. See www.southdownsballooning.co.uk