Seventy five hot air balloons, from across the UK and Europe, are currently on standby to fly across the English Channel to France from Lydden Hill Race Circuit in Kent.
As soon as the Met Office gives the all-clear for take-off, balloons of all shapes and colours will soar above the English Channel, marking the largest ever group of balloons to attempt the crossing. Leading aviation business Lindstrand Hot Air Balloons will be flying four of the balloons.
One of the Lindstrand balloons making the crossing will be carrying a panoramic basket, specifically designed for wheelchair access, a significant development in allowing those with limited mobility to enjoy ballooning. Flying in the balloon, with Pilot Steve Kinsey, will be wheelchair user Andrew Jeffrey.
Andrew is a BBC Online Producer and has flown in balloons several times since his accident in 1979 when, while working off-shore oil drilling in Angola, West Africa, he fell 40ft and snapped his back at waist level. His first foray into the sky was in France with his wife while filming a holiday programme – that was it, he was hooked. He has flown in gliders, micro-lights, fixed wing planes and even jumped out of them, but ballooning is his love.
He first met Pilot Steve Kinsey when he was reporting for BBC Five Live and broadcasted a report from a balloon with Steve in the Scottish Borders – narrowly avoiding a “splash-n-dash” in a loch – we hope that they avoid doing that in the channel this time!
These days – out of the office, Andrew is involved with the major UK flying charity “Aerobility” and is about to embark on managing a new project for them … ballooning.
Organiser of the Cross Channel flight, Ian Sharpe, said: “We have got balloons from all over the country and some from abroad taking part. All we need now is the weather!”