Follow our new ballooning blog with many interesting stories from around the world! This time visiting Brian Boland in Post Mills, USA
Meet balloonist, inventor and artist Brian Boland at his balloon museum and airport at Post Mills, US
|Brian Boland talking about his split tank invention|
If you are interested in hearing the various ballooning stories of the Dunnington’s then this will be the right page for you!
On this new blog I will try and upload some of our most interesting ballooning experiences around the world. Meet other pilots, hear stories, view some videos and enjoy pictures of other balloons, countries and people!
|Flying over Brian's little village of Post Mills|
So let me start with our visit to one of the world’s most interesting and fascinating balloon pilots, inventor, artist, story-teller and airport owner: Brian Boland of Post Mills airport!
But before I talk about Brian I need to explain why were came to the US and met up with Brian. We had just completed our Trans-Atlantic Crossing by vintage Beech 18 – named ‘Betty the Beech’ (see blog: onthebeech.blogspot.co.uk) - and had successfully made flights in Iceland, Greenland and Canada with our brand-new ultra light-weight Cameron 0-56.
|The Beech flying across northern Iceland|
We left the aeroplane in the good hands of Eden Vale airport near Toronto, hired a car, put the balloon in and drove South towards Nashua and up to Post Mills.
Phil had been to Post Mills about 25 years ago when he last met Brian. Brian started ballooning about the same time as Phil in about 1972. Whereas Phil became one of the early pioneers of ballooning in the UK and eventually ended up being the sales manager for Cameron balloons for 15 years, Brian had always been an inventor and designer.
|some of Brian's 148 balloon envelopes|
|flying a side-by-side carriage|
During some of his early days he was asked to create a hot air balloon. Having built the balloon, people started challenging him in saying: ‘and now you must fly it!’
Never shy of taking any risks, Brian took to the skies in his home-built design, survived the flight with only a few bruises and started his career as a balloon manufacturer of special sorts.
|never be without your BBQ: fly it!|
|or for the more relaxed pilot: take you bed!|
During the following 40 years, Brian has designed and built around 150 balloons and airships of all sizes and shapes.
|if you love horse riding, then this is for you!|
But the most fascinating part of his inventions are his numerous curious carriages that he suspended underneath his envelopes: they range from trishaws, to cars (including a rare Messerschmitt) VW busses, boats, kayaks, wheelchairs, horse saddles, BSA motorbikes to God knows what else.
It’s just unbelievable and we were lucky enough to get a private tour around his amazing museum.
|Taking a bus-load flying|
Being with wife no 4 he told us the story of how he took her flying sitting on a BBQ picnic table!!
Poor Tina – a medical doctor who had moved to this area from California many years ago- what must she have thought? But I guess, having survived that flight, she would be in for any crazy stunt that Brian could come up with in the future.
|Brian taking off first|
So having arrived at 5pm on a lovely hot sunny afternoon, we checked in our little cottage, refueled our two worthingtons and then rushed off to join Brian on an evening flight from his airstrip.
Phil and I struggled a bit to keep up with Brian who had two ladies as passengers with Tina doing the retrieve for both our teams.
|Phil at the controls and glad to get July in his logbook!|
Eventually we took off and sailed along with good speed across the vast and endless forests and hills. The sun was already getting low (sunset being at 8.30pm here – which was a shock having just come back from the Arctic where the sun never set) and we still didn’t see a single spot of green grass that wasn’t in the trees! I thought that my recent flights in Finland looked tamer than this!
|flying over endless forest we started to worry where to land|
Eventually just after official sunset we came to a valley with a road and a few narrow fields. As I descended to land the winds pushed us right back into the forest. Oh no! I had to climb again and then made a steep descent into a shrub field. Pew!
|sunset but still looking for clearings in the forest|
By the time Phil and I had maneuvered the balloon to a better deflation spot, Brian and his passengers and Tina turned up to retrieve and help us. Driving through the pitch dark forest I was amazed how anybody would find their way back.
Errik loved balloons from a young age on but living in Florida didn’t give him the opportunity to see many balloons so he came up to Brian’s and started learning to fly here. On the second morning I flew with Brian in our 56 and let Brian do the flight and landing.
We took off in zero wind but as soon as we climbed to about 700ft we zoomed along with 20-25kt – luckily this time heading more East towards the Bradford valley where we landed after 35mins at 7-8kt.
|our captains: Brian and Errik steering the African Queen|
The afternoon was spent with a leisurely cruise on lake Fairlee in his lovely romantic old boat the ‘African Queen’.
Brian and Phil reminisced many old stories and tales. I guess we were all a bit too drunk to take to the skies again but we had to inflate our ‘baby’ as she got a bit damp in the morning. A wonderful dinner at Tina’s completed a great day.
|me and Brian ready for another flight|
The next morning Brian turned up again to invite me for another flight. This time in his Boland 48/12Q that already had 300 or more hours but looked in very good shape. But that ancient looking single pilot light burner looked very worrying to me plus the flexi flexi basket wires! I had never flown one of those but then all the old guard of balloonist have survived those early forms of balloons and I was keen to find out who this one would work.
|safely on the ground at Martin farm|
Brian gave me a ten minute instruction which included me doing two landings. He then jumped out of the basket and let Errick take command. Hm… two greenhorns leading each other. Oh dear!
|the collapsed van on the farm's driveway|
Would that go well?? But it did and Errick despite his fairly low hours, did a very good job and like yesterday morning we suddenly found ourselves racing along in 25kt towards the main valley.
We had to do a steep descent and were suddenly pushed back by 180 degrees but managed a good safe landing by a farm track.
Everything packed and ready to head back to base, the van suddenly made a huge bang and stopped! What was that?
|safely back at the farm with lovely Sue from Martin farm. Thank you Sue!|
As we got out we found that the entire front base of the car had collapsed onto the right tyre!! No way to move anywhere! Strangely we also couldn’t find anybody in this large farmhouse.
Called the AA and kept waiting for signs of life. Finally lovely landlady Sue (from the UK!) turned up and eventually drove me and Errik back to the airport.
|the truck being offloaded near the existing Vermontasaurus|
Shortly afterwards Brian arrives with the AA recovery truck and his broken down vehicle – the balloon basket still strapped to the back of the van. What a sight!
Well, luckily Brian never wastes anything, not even a rotten van. So this piece of rust – he decided – will make the base for his next Vermontasaurus!!
|the van will turn into one of the Dinosaurs at the airport|
We had a fabulous time and are already greatly looking forward to coming back next spring. Our balloon in the meantime will live as a showcase in Brian’s museum.
Who knows what the balloon will look like in half a year’s
time? Maybe it will have grown wings or also turned into a Dinosaur?
|so if you come to visit Brian's museum you might find ours amongst all of this! good luck!|
|we spotted this old plate - 35 years ago!|