Saturday, April 28, 2007

When graphic artists get bored.

I just love these images. Some of them are very clever and are the very reason I love working with Photoshop.

The cow and the panda bears are probably my favorites.


My friends Yosh and Mayumi have arrived in Australia and are hanging around between Sydney and Canberra for the next five or so weeks before jumping off to other parts of Australia before 12 months working in New Zealand.

Both are from Saga in Japan and Yosh has been crewing for me in Saga and Motegi for the past few years. Mayumi is a balloon pilot and did her training here in Australia and was crewing with Andrews team in the 2006 Worlds in Motegi.

Unfortunately sunny Sydney is not living up to its name but I am sure they will get some good weather soon enough.

We have lots of flying planned over the coming weeks as Yosh is keen to get his license which will be fun.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ouch! all fall down.

It is a rude thing for your body to remind you that it is older than your brain.

You see I have enjoyed rock climbing among other adventure activities for many many years. In recent times I have not done any climbing because, well because life gets in the way some times doesn't it?

Among other things that I have sworn to get back into, climbing is one of them. I really enjoy it, physically is it a great activity and mentally it is a challenge.

Before hitting the real rocks though, there is hours in the climbing gym getting the strength back into fingers and other body parts not normally used while sitting at a computer or turning a balloon burner on and off.

With what I thought was a good warm up and gentle start back on the wall, Andrew and I started to find out that while the old feeling was there and the technique side of things was still good, the flexibility and strength still had a ways to go.

About an hour and bit in I did what all idiots do in these situations, I hurt something. The something was my knee that made a great popping sound and then felt a bit weak. Not a problem, shake it out and keep climbing - there are girls watching and this is only a easy/medium rated climb - can't give up until you get to the top or they will stop watching!

Two climbs later I had to admit defeat. The girls had moved on and there was an injury there for sure. It was only going to get worse if I kept going. It was fine all afternoon until a spell of inactivity resulted in a leg that did not want to support weight or was much fun to walk on.

I am guessing I have done some mild damage to the medial collateral ligament which after an evening of elevation is starting to feel better. I suppose I will see how it is in the morning.

It has until next Wednesday to get better because that is my next night at the climbing gym...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Runaway Alarm clock

I have got to get me a Clocky.....crazy for a balloon pilot but I just hate getting out of a warm bed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Just got this photo from my little leap out of "Mike". Thanks to Melissa who sent the picture into the Canberra Times who then tracked me down to see what it was all about - I don't think they could understand that I did not really need a reason.

I mean look at the picture - it's good, clean fun.

The only problem with a little stunt like this is that you have to do it twice because someone always misses the shot first time.

A real bummer that, I hated having to do it again.

I could make all sorts of jokes about leaving another manufacturers balloon in such a way but that could be considered rude so I won't and haven't, no matter how much this read like I am....

Monday, April 16, 2007

Balloon Fiesta Australia 2007

Balloons, Balloons and more balloons. The Balloon Fiesta Australia (AKA Canberra Balloon fiesta) has come and gone in a flash. The compact four day version of the event was a huge success if not a bit too short for me. The flying was fun in a 240 with ten of my newest and best friends every morning (twenty on each of the weekend flights as we were doing hops).

Highlights included the night glow "spectacular" where I got to tether the Prime Television 240 before the start of the main show, get it packed away and then wander around and enjoy the main show. Truth be told, one of the Dawn Drifters Crew, Nicola did the glow once I got it standing up which was a good effort as we bounced around in the last of the days breeze.

Years of being on the burners during a nigh glow makes you a bit jaded as it is all the hard work with out the flight. It is rare for a pilot to get to actually watch this sort of thing as a spectator and I have to say it was really good fun to gauge the public reaction - they loved it and so did I.

I snapped this great shot of parliament house on Sunday morning. What do you reckon the chances of getting one of the Pentagon like this? I also got to play media slut with a crew from Lonely Planet and should get some notice before the segment goes to air in about seven weeks on SBS. Watch this space for the details.

As always there was the chance to be a kid again as we raced go-karts and I even did a few abseils out of a tethered Mike the Monster special shape. Hope to see some photos of that some time.

Another high was watching Lost in Translation. Fantastic film and very funny, particularly if you have ever been to Japan. Still makes me laugh thinking about it.

I had so much fun this year that my fingers crossed for the full ten days next year! A special thanks to my crew on the commercial flights Ian and Nicola - you made it easy and fun all at the same time.

PS: no fuel dramas on the way home and my wallet even made back with me ;-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wallet Part 2

Good news. Really good people are out there in the wild.

As previously mentioned, I entrusted my wallet to some total strangers on Monday. On Monday night I got an email from them asking where to send it back. That was fantastic.

On Tuesday morning I got a phone call because a family member of theirs lives in Sydney and was coming back home at lunch time on Tuesday. It could not have worked out better. A not so short drive from one side of Sydney to the other and my wallet was back in my hip pocket where it feels oh so right.

A romantic dinner for one on the beach and the long drive home and the Easter adventure was over.

Only one day to go then the drive down to Canberra for the festival and four days of bouncing passengers through the air. Looking forward to it as always.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Griffith 2007 - A lot of people to thank..

Warning: this post may be too long for some so come back in a few days for the pretty pictures.

Easter at Griffith. The only thing that come close is Easter at Leeton. The good news is we get to do both on alternate years and it was Griffith for 2007.

This weekend was special for a number of reasons. Not only was the whole gang there (so many Galbraiths, a few Barrows and too many others to mention by name) but the weather mostly behaved it's self and all things flying worked well and yet again returned to earth.

My most recent student pilot did her last solo on Friday morning with a running intermediate where I hopped out as we dragged down a field. The next day she did her check flight and then won the Hare and Hounds while on the solo - very good effort considering she was so focused on the check ride that she did not even know there was a Hare to follow!

Well done Camilla, have fun with that certificate when it turns up in the post.

With one down, it was onto number two student for the weekend. A few more great flights from Gretta including a nice and windy afternoon launch with running take off. Too much fun even if we did get the Honda stuck on a rice field levy bank in the dark. Thanks to John Wallington and crew for the winch to safety.

The remote control plane survived a number of flights (and heavy landings) and it is every bit as much fun as I had hoped. Even a tree could not keep it out of the air for long.

The high point though was the last flight where a Skydiver offered the best swap for a drop yet. A ride in a high performance RV8, single engine, two seater sports plane. This little puppy has fantastic visibility with a bubble cockpit and is rated for +6/-3 G's so it is good for aerobatics although a little too fast for full blown competition.

Poor Gretta got bumped from the student seat in the balloon as I pushed us up to 5000'ft in the ever reliable "Tweety" to drop our skydiver out. In his words, we could not have punched the smile off his face when he landed - skydivers just love balloon jumps.

It was then a a quick trip back to the airport for the ride in the RV8 after the typical Griffith landing at 20km/h. Adam (the pilot and skydiver) indicated that you could take off in the RV8 like any other plane but it just felt wrong - instead I got the full works with us screaming down the runway a few feet of the deck until we hit 140 knots at the far piano keys and a gentle pull back on the stick launched us to a few thousand feet at what felt like about 60 degrees.

A few loops and rolls later I was not sure if I would have been better with breakfast first or not but it was a hoot. A dive down to the runway for a missed approach a few feet of the deck at 200knots was fantastic fun. His phone number is now locked into my phone for future reference as I think we both got a blast from the mornings adventures. Thanks to Adam for a memorable flight in a special little plane.

All this fun comes at a price and if there is such a thing as Karma then this was it with teeth.

With the weekend over and time to get back to work, I had the long drive home ahead of me. Over tired and in need of a sleep I pulled over in the middle of no where for a few hours kip. When I woke up and started driving again, the fuel light was on....don't remember seeing that before, don't remember even looking at the gauge before. oh oh.

How far is the next town I wonder. Damn I must have been tired. As the "30km to Temora" sign rolled by, the car ran out of fuel. The last litre of fuel in the inflator fan got me another few kilometers down the road but that was it. Hitching from a broken down car was pretty easy and in fact the second car picked me up for the drive to town. A can of fuel later and it was a hell of a lot more cars driving past before I got a ride going back towards the thirsty car.

They were the best people I could have hoped to meet, they were from near Leeton and Griffith and loved seeing the balloons at this time of year. I did what anyone else would (should?) do in the situation, I pulled out my wallet and gave them a card so they could call or email me to have a flight with me some time.

I then did what you should not do and put the wallet on the rear seat of their car rather than in my pocket.

We finally got to my car, they waited to make sure it would start and then disappeared over the horizon in the opposite direction to me. Soon after I realized there was a problem. I had five dollars worth of fuel in the tank and about 500km to drive with only another eight dollars in 5cent pieces scattered through the car. They had my email address but I only had their first names. The thought of canceling all those cards and things you have in a wallet turned me grey.

I got a tank of fuel sorted thanks to a very trusting petrol station owner (The BP in Temora gets my vote for best servo ever!) and was on my way home hoping like mad that my rescuers, Peter and Jacqui were every bit as nice as I felt they were - having known them all of 15 minutes.

As I was pondering the fate of my wallet, I saw a bunch of guys with a car on a jack and a thumb sticking out in an all all too familiar way. I pulled over to offer any help I could that was not financial or fuel related.

They had a shredded tyre and needed a wheel brace as they did not have one. They had spent an hour trying to get someone to stop (it was dark now and they were on the motorway). By luck I had packed my trusty 4 way folding tyre brace which had them underway in about five minutes. They were relieved, I felt good, there was hope that the world may balance out again.

I got home and gingerly fired up the email just in case the fairy tail could happen and there it was. A wonderful email asking what address would be best to send my wallet to. You have no idea how well I am about to sleep. Thanks to Peter and Jacqui for a great end to a great weekend. See you soon and hope you like heights.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Easter is here and the bunny has already been to visit. A new toy has arrived just in time for the long weekend in Griffith.

For the past few years thanks to Justin Galbraith, we have spent the start of the ballooning season flying, dogfighting and crashing remote control planes between balloon flights. In reality, there is more crashing than flying from me but it damn good fun. Justin is a master of all things RC from planes to Helicopters, balloons and cars. He almost needs as second vehicle to truck all his gadgets around the country side.

Anyhow, this year I have upgraded to the F27B Stryker. An electric, charge and fly plane that will do 80km/h out of the box and is fully aerobatic. It can be seriously tweaked for much more speed and a quick search of youtube has turned up lots of videos of this very popular little plane converted into a crazy speed beast.

Warning: Most of the videos like the one linked above contain sad audio tracks and salutes to Top Gun.

Fingers crossed for good weather and lots of flying of all sorts and I promise not to hum Danger Zone ever again.....