2015

FULL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN SVALBARD

Mar 19, 2015
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20 MARCH 2015

Finnally the full solar eclipse. We were ready this morning, after checking again the weather forecast and seeing that was a similar weather from yesterday, we  decided to start near Longyearbye in the Adventalen Valley. Also as we had to carry the 360 º GoPro 6 cameras and the rest of the team had no snowmobile, has been the best option.At 9:30 we were ready for inflation, but our decision was to take off at 10:30, so we have been waiting for some time, even is difficult when you have good weather and think that maybe later will be more windy. Anyway at 10 we start the inflation and at 10:20 we are ready to take off. With all equipment ready, we take off at 10:30 and we climb slowly to 3000 ft. As we are near the airport , we comunicate with the tower, even we do not expect big planes taking off or landing. All people is waiting already for the eclipse.

At 10:50 , as planned we start to climb to 10000 ft, previous authorization of the controler of Longyearbyen airport, because this was the planned altitude to look at the full eclipse. We climb slowly because the small 42 balloon with 3 persons on board and 2 x 30 Kg cylinders, even the cold temperature (-20 ºC in the ground) , does not permit to climb fast.

Landscape is wonderful , but when it comes the full eclipse, we are all three astonished. Nobody talks and we all try to keep in the deep memory this 3 minutes that we can’t stop.

It has been a happy day for us and we are conscious of this privilege. This incredible sight we will remeber forever. After finishing the full eclipse, we think again that we have not excess of propane and we need to finish to pass the mountains to make an easy retrieve. So we stay still high enough to have a good speed and direction and looking at the nice landscape.

When we are already over the valley, we descent and wait or sme minutes flying near the ground to savour a little bit more the flight with this landscape. With 12 % on each bottle after 1 hour and 35 minutes, we land safely with Jacob, our guide for all this days on the side.

It has been a very special experience that we will remember forever.

 

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19 MARCH 2015

With a good weather forecast with wind from the north, we decide to go at half way from the valley of Adventalen to the valley of Reindalen. Visibility was perfect and it has been a good test for tomorrow during the eclipse. Today we could manage to fly over some mountain and also to fly near the ground in the valley without the problems from yesterday. As we had a good sunshine, there were some shadows that were helpful to see the distance from the ground.  So no problem to fly low, even the power from the burners was low because we did not pressurize. With a 42 and the new burner was good enoug to have power also for a distraction, that there wasn’t today.  A lot of filming, pictures, etc. because we had time to fly and admire the landscape with all the beautiness of this area. The retrieve were below the balloon before we landed, so it was an easy exercise today because the forecast was accurate to the reality. Let’s hope tomorrow is similar. We have already planned the flight for tomorrow and we hope we can be in the air during the full eclipse.

 

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18 MARCH 2015

Arrived yesterday afternoon to Longyearbyen with all equipment as passenger luggage, today we have had the pleasure to make our first flight in Svalbard. Arrival here with all equipment, has been complicated, but we succeeded. So yesterday after being installed in the appartment, we went to fill our 2 x 30 Kg cylinders of propane. Here propane is expenive as it has to be brought from mainland and at this time of the year, very few ships are coming. So the M-42 Double layer top 40 % was the right balloon to bring. At this temperature (minus 20 ºC) we thought we could fly with the 2 30 Kg cylinders and 3 persons on board. The Tekno CT-01 (0,8 m x 1,00 m) with the cylinders outside was our choice and after the first flight, we think it was a right decision.

The wind today was forecasted to not be strong, so anytime could be good, but at around 12 was expected to have poor visibility and in fact it happened.

We moved with the snowmobiles to a big valley south of the town, so not to disturb in the airport and also to have a wide nice area to fly. Counseled by Jacob , our tour guide who has solved several important points so we can fly, we drive to Nordenskiöld Land National Park . We prepare the balloon with some wind and we fly. It looks simple, but really we were lucky that the day after arrival we are flying with the balloon in a wonderful valley. It has been a flight so our guide knows how works the balloon and also we get familiar with the landscape and the balloon.

We could not find the appropriate conection for the nitrogen tank, so as we had already  tried already in Switzerland the new burner  MK-32 without presurization and worked quite well, we decide to fly anyway. With a small balloon M.42, we do not need much power, but flying at this temperatures, you need a minimum power that has been proved to be safe.

It has been a short flight of about half hour and we had the time to admire the special landscape of this latitudes. We were very happy to be flying here and we consider it as a privilege we can do and lucky enough to meet with the good weather.

Angel and Miquel from Kon-Tiki have a good experience also as they have flown in Greenland and advised specially to be carefull with the altitude as it is very dificult to know the distance when you are near the ground. Even that, because the visibility was not good, we had a ground touch without advertising any of us and taking it as a bad surprise. Fortunately all was OK and we continued our flight without problem. We asked the snowmobile to be near under the balloon and it worked well, but at the landing, which was a little windy, again we hit harder than expected, but at least this time we were all ready.

It has been a good test as with 3 pax on board with the 42 we just spent 20 Kg of gas including inflation, so we think we can do, weather permitting, longer flights in this wonderful laandscape.

 

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FULL MOON NIGHT FLIGHT OVER PYRENEES

Mar 13, 2015
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On 6th March 2015 we have done a night flight over the Pyrenees with full moon. This has been a very nice experience that has taken some time to prepare. In fact we were in the same place, Vall d’Aran one month earlier and we discarded the flight. The reason was too windy and even was possible to fly we thought the time over the Pyrenees had been too short to enjoy.

So one month later, this last Friday 6th March 2015 , we go back again. As we had all work till late, we decided to go direct after dinner at home, without much sleeping.

The Valley of Aran is not very wide, so powerlines, river and  villages do not leave much places for take off. Also we did not like to disturb too much the people sleeping as with the fan starting at 4:15 is not nice. So it took us more time than expected to find the right spot to take off, but it had it’s premium. A nice snowed field enough far to not disturb the night to villagers in Arties. Also was enough big in case of changing the wind direction some degrees. So we had time to prepare well the take off. We were all excited and after being all ready we started the flight at 4:41 a.m. . As the wind was not strong, we could manage to go a little down to the valley approaching Vielha looking around as we were climbing gently. The landscape was wonderful and the pictures do not show the clarity we had on our eyes with the full moon and the snow reflection. This has been a mistake to not repeat. Before we need to prepare the cameras and take some shots at distance, so we check the pictures are good enough. Anyway we were climbing steady at 4 m/s until we had clear any rotor could not take us on the mountains. At about 3500 m we level the flight and we look at the beautiful scenary having the Aneto and Biciberri not far at our right and other wonderful mountains and lakes around. We took off with the Adriatic M-105 balloon with double layer up to 40 %, so with  6×25 Kg titanium  cylinders, we knew we should not have any trouble for the consumption.

After passing the Pyrenees, we start to climb to high altitude up to 21000 feet to test the new MK-32 burner. One side of the burner with the pilot light on vapour and oxygen and the other side with the standard  liquid pilot light. All went perfectly, though we had to descent fast as we were approaching the TMA of Zaragoza , and still no radio contact with Barcelona tower. Before entering TMA we could contact and put a transponder code, so we were well controlled during the rest of the flight.

Sunrise was another beautiful scenary. As you are high, you see a very large horizon with light. Very few clouds started to appear in the Pyrenees , but we could do the flight out of clouds when we were over there, so the light of the moon over the snowed mountains was incredible.

Balloons have this interesting particularity: You never repeat a flight. This makes all flights very challenging and surprising, as you have to change your mind many times and improvise according the new situation. That is part of the balloon appeal.

We could see the smoke of some factories not too horizontal, so we were expecting a nice landing. Fortunately we could find a good place near a highway exit, so the retrieve was not too late to arrive when we landed at 8:39. With a 105 climbing at more than 6000 m , and remaining more than 1 bottle of 25 Kg, so with a consumption of 125 Kg including inflation, we think was a good performance for the balloon. Adriatic M-105 is the recycled envelope form the older Aconcagua N-180 after being found in the Adriatic sea 10 days after sea landing. But that is another story.

 

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CATALONIA TOUR 2015

Mar 3, 2015
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Week from 23rd to 27th February has been organized by Kon-Tiki a Tour by Balloon in Catalonia for some of its best scenaries .

The weather has not been very helpful, but Angel and Miquel have squeezed their knowledges to profit it at most. So it has been a memorable week with 12 participants from different parts of Europe that have enjoyed this fantastic flights through out the country.

Thursday 26th February

Tuesday and wednesady have been relax days. Too windy to fly. As the group was in Ager, the teams  profited to do some walking excursions around.

Morning of 26th weather forecast is good and the direction interesting to follow some of the natural corners of the area. We missed enter the canyon, but most of the balloons they did. It is a very deep natural gorge with high walls both sides, so you need to be careful when entering. After passing Ager area, we decided to continue as we had enough gas (2×40 Kg+ 1×20 Kg)  with the double layer Aconcagua balloon to make a long flight. So we could arrive to Igualada in 4 hours and 10 minutes and could avoid returning by car. A very nice flight that I am sure all pilots enjoyed.

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Monday 23rd February

After an evening dinner all together on Sunday, we get up early in the morning to fly in Cerdanya because in this area the weather forecast seems good enough. We had a pleasant preparation and take off and with a nice speed and direction towards the coast at approximate 120 º direction, we fly over a part of the Pyrenees and nice landscapes  till near the coast. When you fly at 5000 m and ground is at sea level , it takes about 20 or 30 minutes, so at a speed of 80 Km/h if you start your descent 5 minutes late and you want to land near the coast, maybe you are in the water. To be on the safe side, we start our descent about 20 Km before the coast line, and when we see also that the smoke near the ground is going inland, we can be sure we will ot end on the sea.

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FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL de BALLONS, CHÂTEAU-D’OEX

Jan 26, 2015
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31 January

As we were approaching Saturday, the weather forecast was improving for the morning. We had decided to leave already on Saturday, because Sunday again is to have snow, so we took the M-42 Double Layer to make a short flight in the valley. The morning has been wonderful and with a clean sky we took off at 9:30, so we could descend on the valley to Gruyere. As was all so snowed, the landscape is incredible.  We pass Montbouvon at a nice speed as usual, avoiding the rotor in the neck bottle. Then  we  go up to check if the winds not too high were enough to fly to Zweisiemmen. As we were with a small balloon and I did not want to overheat, we  went up just 1500 AGL but we could not get the wind enough fast to go back. Together with the intention to go home same saturday, we decided go down again and land in Grandvillard. Retrieve was already advanced there using the flightpacktracker, so we could pack all and leave just when started to snow again around 3 p.m. One hour and half with a 42 with 2 people and still half of the 70 Kg gas we took on take off, is a good performance for so small balloon in this conditions.

So the week  in Chateau d’Oex was finished. For the bad forecast we had previously, at the end we managed to do 5 flights all with particular interest , so we were satisfied to have come again to this magnific winter event.

 

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28 January

Finally we have had a nice day. Medium clear sky and not  much wind. With a good forecast, we decided to take again the Vista basket with the Aconcagua N-180 envelope. So we could stay in the air with four cylinders as much as we wanted. Again testing burner, also a new instrument that will soon come out and practicing again with the Vista basket, was an enjoyable flight. The first idea was to go down to Gruyere and then with the upper winds to go to Zweisiemmen. The catabatic winds did not take down the valley, so we stayed for some time around Chateau d’Oex and once we could know the different winds, we decided to go high and move East to Gstaad. Playing up and down and looking at the time left, we decided anyway to arrive to Zweisiemmen which we did easily following the  valley from Saanen. The track shown does not arrive to the landing point as I had it set for “short” flights, so you do not forget to stop it after landing. For long flights you can set the track not to stop and then it had been the full track. We landed with some wind , so I put the basket backwards and we had a nice landing near the Heliport. A comfortable flight with nice landscape, music, champagne, some biscuit with salmon and serrano ham made the day very enjoyable and worth the trip from Igualada.

With the Flightpacktracker, I could see also the balloon of Chris in the team umalps, so it helped to know each other the winds at different altitudes looking at both tracks. By the way, soon available in Ipad and Iphone as we are already beta testing.

After a 3 hours and 58 minutes including inflation, with 3×40 Kg + 1×30 Kg tanks we landed still with a lot of gas that could keep us up for another 3 hours. It’s quite comfortable to know that you can fly without being worried for the cgas, but only for geting dark and if not possible to land in a place, still have gas enough to climb and get into another valley (weather permitting).

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27 January

Weather unstable, so we decided again to use the small M-42 balloon double layer for the flight. The winds were good so we could manage a nice flight going first down to Les Moulins and after going up, to follow direction to Rougemont and Gstaad. We did a flight of 1 hour and 40 minutes taking of and inflating with a 1×40 Kg and 1×30 Kg. We still had gas at least for another hour, but as we were near Gstaad we decided to land after the aerodrome of Saanen in a nice field. The snow was high and we could not enter with the car, but with the light Tekno basket and a M-42 was not a problem to put all back in the car.

 

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26 January

With the snow starting to fall just after the briefing, we decided to fly with the M-42 with 50 % double layer and the Tekno 50. We have taken 2 cylinders (1×40 Kg + 1x30Kg) and we have flown for 48 minutes as we had to land before Payerne because it is a military area that were training with drones today. Not a good place to be around with a balloon.

It has been our first time to fly snowing, but we felt very safe. Not much wind and with the clouds in the top of the mountains was a good choice to have a small balloon. With 2 persons, including inflation we spent 20 Kg. which is not bad. So we landed with enough gas to fly for 2 hours more at least.

We could drop quite well the marker in the target of Les Moulins, but we forgot  them in the Vista basket. Next time we will be more aware with the checklist.

After Montbouvon in the valley to Gruyere, the wind increased, but we had the chance to get a nice field. We forgot to keep the radios, so were with some snow afterwards as we dragged some meters on the snow. An interesting flight profiting what was possible to do today. We expect bad weather tomorrow, but will be at the briefing in case forecast changes.

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24 January

First day and a nice flight with the Vista basket on a M-145 double layer envelope. Passengers enjoyed the flight because were very comfortable and at the end we could do a nicer flight than expected. We climbed at 1200 m AGL  having a nice view of the mountains, even was not a sunny day. We had cava on board for the passengers and a couple of biscuits with smoked salmon and “bellota” ham. Pilot had to wait for the brindis with the passengers after the landing.

We went down the valley and after climbing and going backwards we could manage to fly again over the launch field. A soft landing over the snow with  light winds, permitted to carry the basket with the balloon inflated on the  trailer.

A precise organization as we are used to have here, with excellent  information on weather, traffic control, etc. which all pilots apreciate when coming.

 

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DOLOMITI BALLOON FESTIVAL 2015

Jan 17, 2015
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We have participated again in this wonderful event. We arrived Wednesday 14th January in the evening ready to fly next morning, weather permitting. We knew that on Saturday the weather forecast was bad, so we were ready to profit the next days.

15th January

After a morning briefing prepared by Gunter Binder  for the meteo, a group of friend pilots was ready to fly  in  the valley and some across the mountains.

We agreed with Ramses Vanneste he would fly the Aconcagua N-180 with 40 % double layer and we would fly the Adriatic M-105 also double layer profited from the previous Aconcagua….

We did a nice flight of just about 100 Km because the next valleys were foggy with few possibilities to disappear during the afternoon. Anyway was a flight to get in place with all the equipment and trying also prototype burner in altitude and different combinations.

With the M-105 we flew heavy as we were three passengers, quadruple burner, 3×40 Kg. cylinders and 1 of 30 Kg, oxygen, equipment, etc. and climbing up to 5000 m. We could not climb higher because we had no clearance from Wien airport. Anyway it was a good flight and we were all back at 8:00 p.m. for dinner after a 2:56 hours of flight. Consumption was 100 Kg. including inflation which was not bad for high climbing and a little heavy loaded balloon.

 

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16th January

At briefing we were told conditions were good for long distance flight. Other pilots had been flying already several alpine flights, so we were the only team ready for a long distance flight. As we were told maybe bad weather could arrive in the afternoon, at 10:10 we took-off, this time with the Aconcagua balloon. We did send the flight plan and talk by telephone with Milano airport and after TO and trying to reach altitude directly, we started moving fast NE, so after trying during the climb to contact Milano, we were already in Austria. We contacted Wien Airport and we were told to stay maximum at FL 145. At this altitude we were drifting 60 º at a speed of 100 Km/h . So we were happy to be there as we were seeing, even that area was covered, that we could reach easily out of the cloud area in less than an hour. Unfortunately my transponder batteries were not well charged and we had to stay below FL 145. In the other hand, was  enough height to not get the turbulences of the mountains, and after one hour we could admire a very nice side of the Alps. We kept flying until we could find a good spot for landing. That was after 270 Km and 4 hours flight which was enough to enjoy a fantastic flight together  with Josep and Darwin. This time we knew we had more than enough gas :3 x 40 Kg + 1×30 Kg. We spent 80 kg (2×40 ) in the 4 hours flight including inflation, so we had remaining 70 more Kg, which means 4 hours more at least. More than we could need before sunset. We could have made a very long flight, but we did the best part in the Alps, so we were very satisfied of the flight. We waited the retrieve having a nice lunch in the nearby village Halltal after a ride given by a friendly villager.

We were back at Hotel Rosengarten in Dobbiaco at 2:00 a.m. As the weather forecasted for Saturday unfortunately was correct, we decided to come back home same Saturday.

Congratulations to Ramses Vanneste brilliant winner of the Dolomiti Balloon Trophy as his team flew 330 Km last Monday.

 

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