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Forewarned is forearmed

An early season reminder and safety check - Tuesday, Apr 08, 2014

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If, like me, you haven’t flown since last autumn then making your first 2014 flight is probably your most vulnerable time.

Forewarned is forearmed

I broke my long absence recently with an excellent flight on St David’s Day, appropriately in Wales, but that is a story for another day.

Many of us have witnessed the most awful of winters and done little flying. Those lucky enough to escape the relentless wind and rain to warmer (and colder) climes, have teased us on social media. Pictures of cool beers by the poolside after early morning flights in the Far East and down under or shots of snow-capped mountains from epic Alpine flights, have kept those pilots current and in top form.

Almost every year, we, as insurance brokers, have an early season claim to deal with. Fortunately, most are minor with just injured pride and a balloon needing restitching. However, they all have one thing in common – the pilot in command is back flying after a break and something has been misjudged or overlooked.

To counter this, it would be a good idea to go through all of your kit and make sure it is in tip top condition. Having silicone greased valves, taps and karabiners, check your instruments – batteries, maps marked up and GPS on right country. I have flown with mine still on the Irish grid and this can cause an unnecessary distraction at the wrong time.

Then get your crew together and go down to the launch field and do a dummy run. Get the balloon out, rig it and, if conditions are suitable, inflate. It will appreciate an airing and everyone will benefit from the exercise and this non flying practice.

For those of us who may have sneaked in a flight in the few slots there have been, don’t forget the sun is now getting higher and higher in the sky. Thermals, not really seen since the late autumn, begin in early March and flying during the day becomes interesting! This is one of the more common reasons for the incidents we have witnessed. A study and awareness of dawn and sunset times should ensure you don’t get caught out.

As I write this in early March, I am looking forward to the coming season with more than the usual anticipation. My firm has recently rebranded and a new 90 is currently in production at Cameron Balloons, in our new livery - exciting times.

Have fun, enjoy the season and keep safe!

Peter Dowlen

Director and Balloon Pilot

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