Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum - Translation: Marc Arys  © sbap 2016
 

It is true, we love thundering jets, elegant but priceless warbirds and on top of this all we would love to fly them. But there are other ways of flying, pure and in osmosis with nature or rather with the wind. Hot air balloons… Having a wife who understands this passion, she did not hesitate to offer me a flight in one of these crafts.
Rendezvous was taken and we met the pilot at the airfield of Baisy Thy at 1900 hours. Being a bit earlier at this little airfield mainly dedicated to ULM-flying, we had the time to wander around in the hangars and discover a clever way of "parking" ULM airframes with a maximum on space saving.
On to the balloon and what kind of balloon! 27 meters in height, a diameter of 18 meters and an envelope weight of 370 kg. This impressive envelope is manufactured in Spain including an auto-repair silicon brand, which was demonstrated quite amazingly. The pilot just punctured the canvas with a pen, scrubbed it twice regarding to the weaving and the whole (the balloon's enemy) was gone as per enchantment.
The cradle of OO-BIY allows take up to 16 passengers and all participants were asked to give a hand with the preparations. First stage was to deploy the canvas followed by the briefing. This latter to explain the flight in regards of the wind directions as to fly between the airport areas of Brussels and Charleroi, prohibited to any balloon flight. Each participant also received a designated compartment within the cradle.
Two powerful fans were used to inflate the canvas containing no less than 10.000m³ of air. Once inflated, boarding began and the pilot started the use of the triple burners to heat up the air in the balloon. Once warm enough, the balloon erected itself and took to the wind. A few burners' bursts more and this "lighter than air" gently took off.
What a great feeling of softness and elegance, gaining slowly altitude allowing us to admire the surroundings and airfield of Baisy Thy. Flying towards the Wallon Brabant the pilot tried various altitudes to find the ideal winds for our journey. Once the right altitude found and besides some burner bursts to keep it, the atmosphere was calm and silent. Flown by the wind… we were the wind…
Our flight took us over several beautiful places of this part of the country all quite near the capital city although still pleasantly. As to demonstrate how to fly a balloon the pilot did a "low flying" and regain some altitude to clear the woods coming towards our cradle. Simply wonderful !
Having flown over over Baisy Thy, Bousval, the Brabant Wallon vineyards, the domain of the "Bois des Rêves" (Forest of Dreams), we headed for Louvain-La-Neuve with the pilot looking for a safe spot to land. We landed in a field just passed the city and near the E411 highway and were all greeted by the farmer working on his land. After flying for an hour of pure happiness, everybody helped to fold back again the canvas and load it back in its motorized container.
It was not a jet nor a powerful prop driven aircraft, but it was an unforgettable and wonderful flight.
If these few lines inspired you to live such an experience, go for it! You will never regret it. Just have a look at the site of the "European Balloon Corporation" and you will certainly meet our pilot "Ben" who flew us with mastery and can grab the attention of his passengers giving all kind of information throughout the flight. In short, if you love being airborne, just shear happiness!

 
 A real amazing way to store the aircraft This system gives a serious gain of place
ULM Dyn'Aéro MCR  ULM B F Technic FK9 MARK IV
 
 Preparation of the ballon, the first step deploy the balloon envelope
    The gigantic canvas
 Take off, we left Baisy Thy airfield Direction the village of Baisy Thy
 Baisy Thy "Ben" the sympatic pilot
The burners  Gaz bottles ans navigation aid
 As the earth is so beautiful from the sky Burner in action
 Our shadow in the field The oak chapel
 Wallon Brabant vineyards City of Bousval and the National 25 road
 Find the mistake We are not alone in the sky
Is it Marklin or the Belgian Railway Company?  "Bois des Rêves" domain
 Arriving above Louvain-La-Neuve city The particular architecture of Louvain-La-Neuve
 Landing in a field Helping to store the balloon in its container
  The cradle scheduled for 16 passengers
 
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