Tuesday, 4 October 2016

If you miss seeing Betty flying, watch this great video by Kevin McDonald!

Betty flying into her winter home at Charlton Park

After a frustrating summer missing public displays and opportunities for Trans-Atlantic departure due mainly to pilot availability - we finally got Betty into a lovely winter home at Charlton Park Estate near Malmesbury.
She was flown by pilots Tim Darrah and Ed Dablin taking off from Staverton/Gloucestershire airport on a glorious autumn day coming past the stately mansion house and landing in calm winds on the Estate's westerly runway 25.
 After a safe landing, Betty was skilfully towed into the hangar by the very helpful estate manager on a tractor sparing only a few inches on either side of her wings. That was tight!

 It was sad to see her going to rest again after she’s performed so well on today’s flight.
One day for sure Betty will finally embark on her epic journey around the world -  for now at least she has got a good and safe home for the winter!

It was particularly nice that the Earl of Suffolk & Berkshire and his entire family including many grand-children were at home to watch this impromptu aviation day which even included a launch of our baby hopper G-HEXE!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Beech at the Weston-Super-Mare Airshow 2016 (photos by Peter White)

The Beech at the Weston-Super-Mare Airshow 2016

'Betty the Beech' at the Weston-Super-Mare Airshow 2016
photo by Peter White

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Life's a Beech

Betty is waiting for her appearance at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta on the 13/14th of August. Make sure you come to see her flying a display! More on that later and in more detail.

Hard to believe that this photo was taken two years ago.
Many promises followed but sadly no many actions!

I have come across a very interesting and stimulating article about flying a Beech 18 by pilot Lasse Ringholm.

He writes in his first couple of lines: 'Flying the Beech 18 is an honour and an experience that few pilots ever get over. (...) the 18 is a delight to fly and as honest and straightforward a flying machine as you'll find anywhere.

Betty is now in top condition and all ready for her adventure.

Enjoy reading Lasse's article!

Life's a Beech by Lasse Rungholm

Saturday, 9 July 2016

See 'Betty the Beech' at the Gloucestershire Airport Open Day on the 16th of July

Gloucestershire Airport is holding an Open Day on Saturday the 16th of July and Betty the Beech will be on static display during the day. For more info see the airports website here:

Come to this fun day with plenty of interesting aircraft and events. Weather permitting a hot air balloon will be launching from the airstrip later that evening. For booking a ticket go to the Bristol Balloons website: 

In the meantime Phil and I are trying to log a few more new countries and have escaped the other side  of the big pond, to Argentina.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a superb hopper flight yesterday morning in quite interesting wind conditions with a very cold calm ground layer allowing for an easy launch and landing but surprisingly finding me zooming along the wet countryside at 23kt at only 400ft! 

Thanks so much to Argentinian ballooning friends for helping with gas, launch sites and retrieve!! You are fantastic! Muchos gracias!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Congratulations to Ed for completing his training - and Betty at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2016

Congratulations to Ed Dablin for completing his training on the Beech 18 this weekend!

Photo by Peter Russell
Ed and Bill flew Betty last weekend and she was spotted by Peter Russell who kindly sent us these two photos of Betty on her approach for finals at Staverton.

Great news and dates for your diaries: Betty will be seen flying a display over the grounds of Ashton Court in Bristol during the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators every year. 
Photo by Peter Russell
Pilot John Dodd will be in command flying Betty on Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th of August sometime mid-afternoon. So do come to Bristol to see her flying! The light-weight Voyager balloon will of course also participate alongside with 150 other balloons during this highly popular event.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Updates and another nice video by Kevin MacDonald

Dear followers,

you might be wondering what's going on?

Well, we haven't been sitting all day in the pub drinking cider but worked quite hard over the last week on more sponsorship opportunities, discussions with the team and getting the aeroplane ready for her great journey.

Betty getting ready for her display flight

Ed has now nearly completed his training and Betty did a nice 3-days tour around the South-country and Wales.

the interior of the aeroplane with the new seats

plenty of folks watching the airshow from Brean
The Red Arrows at Weston-Super-Mare
Yesterday she flew a display - conducted by pilot Jon Corley - at the Weston-Super-Mare airshow. Hundreds of viewers admired her low fly-past over the sea before the Red Arrows roared in. Today sadly the weather closed in and Betty has to remain in Staverton.

But hopefully she will be been flying again over Gloucestershire as we are training new pilots to get familiar with her.

The master plan for the Trans-Atlantic is now set for the end of August/beginning of September! Let's all keep fingers crossed. There are still a few hurdles to overcome!

Kevin has created two more nice videos for us, so enjoy by clicking the following vimeo links and once more a big 'thank you' to Kevin for being so supportive in this project!

Kevin MacDonald:

Short interviews with Phil and Allie and balloon flight from North Hill Gliding

Betty flies....

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Two wonderful photos of Betty by Jemma Phillips of Doxey Creative Photography

Photo by Doxey Creative Photography, Jemma Phillips
Thanks to professional photographer Jemma Phillips for allowing me to post her superb shots of Betty taking to the skies during her flights in Gloucester a few weeks ago!

Photo by Doxey Creative Photography, Jemma Phillips

Jemma happened to be near the airfield when she spotted Betty and as a camerawomen she is never without her Canon 1 DX MK1. 

To find out more about her photography and interests please visit her inspiring website: 

Friday, 10 June 2016

A break from the Beech to the Beach!

A retreat from Beeching by the beaches of South Devon: a balloon flight, a walk along the coast and a swim in the sea!

Of course we couldn't resist taking a balloon with us!

So it happened that on Wednesday morning we launched from the friendly Glider site at North Hill.

Weather conditions initially were slightly marginal with low cloud and quite some wind, but by the time we had rigged the voyager the skies were clear and we took off just after 7.30am.

                                                                          The flight took us initially over very pretty rolling countryside before we managed a tricky intermediate landing and changed over crew and pilot.

I now took control and flew with friend Kevin MacDonald on board who was by coincidence staying with relatives in a near-by village.

Our flight track allowed us to fly right along the lively and picturesque high street of Honiton before we landed in a nicely cut grass field to the south-east of the market town.

the market town of Honiton

Packing up followed by delicious breakfast and a freezing cold dip in the sea.

Our batteries recharged we headed back to Bristol to carry on with planning and organising what next for 'onthebeech'.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Silver Lining

Well, you must be wondering what's been happening as there has been a prolonged silence on this site. Indeed Phil and I had a seriously depressing week coming to a point where we nearly wanted to give up! 
Flying out of Staverton airport with a balloon

This project is not only about flying an old aeroplane carrying a hot air balloon across very demanding territory it's probably even more so about the challenge to wedge several individuals and personalities into one team to make this all work. 

As we have now sadly missed two deadlines for setting off on the Trans-Atlantic trip due to various unforeseen happenings, our pilots are running up against their available time. We still have no idea when we can start the expedition and the emotional strain is huge but we don’t want to give up.

Flying past Gloucester cathedral
over the docks

This weekend at least Bill and Ed have taken Betty up to Llanbedr in northern Wales where they are conducting intensive flight training and getting familiar with our ‘old lady’.  

The team then flew her to Newquay and they will be taken her around the Scilly Isles today before returning to Gloucester for the week.
Betty is in good shape we hear and the pilots are enjoying their flights.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining - and so it happened that Phil and I finally had an unexpected reunion with Phil’s previous wife Jane and his two (of three) long-lost daughters! This would not have been possible had we been already departed on this trip!

Phil and two of his daughters, Fiona (left) and Philippa (right) 
We also did some ballooning and made progress on sorting various other things to do with the planned adventure.
Kevin MacDonald in the meantime chased Betty and documented some of her circuits and we are looking forward to seeing more of his footage appearing on this blog shortly.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

On the Beech: interviews and film taster by Kevin MacDonald

The team has completed a number of training/familiarisation flights in Gloucester and  Dunkeswell over the last few days and Betty is back in her current base at Staverton taking a 'rest' for the bank holiday weekend.

In the meantime across the Atlantic Kevin has worked intensively on editing his film taster for an 'On the Beech' documentary.

Grab a Gin and Tonic like we are doing right now, sit back and enjoy Kevin's lastest version:

Taster documentary film by Kevin MacDonald

Friday, 27 May 2016

Interview about the 'On the Beech' project by 'Made in Bristol' TV

The other day Phil and I were interviewed and filmed by a presenter from the local TV channel 'Made in Bristol' who created this nice trailer:


Fabulous photos of G-BKGM by Tom Balson

Enjoy those fantastic shots taken by Tom Balson as Betty flew into Bristol Airport this week!

'Bristol Airways' flying into Bristol Airport
Thank you Tom for those great photos!

Betty parked at the Bristol and Wessex flying school

starting the engines again for the next flight

Thursday, 26 May 2016

'Bristol Airways' inaugural flight to Bristol airport!

What a great flight- what a fantastic experience!

Worth all the long waiting, worries and hassle!

Roger anxiously watching Betty's engine start up

With chief pilot Andy Foan and co-pilot Ed Dablin at the controls, Betty started both of her engines in no time and after some run- up time Bristol Airways lifted off the ground from Gloucestershire Airport at 10.48am this morning.

What a great feeling to finally be up in the air again - this time sitting comfortably on our brand new leather seats (sadly without the gin and tonic table!) looking out of the window and enjoying the green scenery.

On board with us were Clive Bailey - commercial balloon pilot/operator and leading figure at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta - and Simon Wrighton, one of Bristol Airport’s own Air traffic controllers and also a balloonist.

We soon left Cheltenham and GCHQ behind us and the two Severn Bridges came into sight.

We then turned over Pill where Clive could wave to his wife Jo standing in the garden and our pilots approached Clifton and the famous Brunel Suspension bridge.

We swept to the left and I could see below, beyond Betty’s wings, we were turning at 1000ft over the bridge and completed a full circle before heading finally towards the airport.

What a fantastic experience and great view!

Then the landing: Andy and Ed handled the fairly brisk cross-wind and we touched down after 23mins of flight on runway 09 at Bristol Airport.

A short taxi to the GA side at the Bristol and Wessex flying school and we were there!

Andy refuelling the aeroplane

Greeted by friends and supporters we enjoyed a quick coffee and for the passengers a glass of fizz before Andy and Ed had to take off again to pick up our third pilot Bill Tollett who was left behind waiting at Gloucester due to a misunderstanding! Sorry Bill and thanks for being patient!
 At least this wasn’t yet Greenland!

interested airport ground staff watching Betty take off again