Famous hot air balloon pilot Charles Green wowed the world with his aeronautical adventures in the 19th century and more than 160 years on, we were delighted to welcome his great, great nephew on board a flight over the Cotswolds.
Nick Walford, a former commercial airline pilot, and his wife Christine flew from Shipston-On-Stour on a mild September evening.
“It was the first time that either of us had flown in a balloon and the experience was very much as we had imagined,” he said.
“I think that we both appreciated the peace and quiet when gently floating over the countryside and having the time to take in the wonderful spectacle.
“I have flown over much of southern England in a light aircraft at a similar height but so much of the view is missed at a much higher ground speed.
“Charles Green made at least one flight over the Cotswolds and landed on one occasion at Salperton, near Andoversford.”
Charles Green was Nick’s great, great uncle.
He was most famous for his incredible balloon flight from the UK, across the channel and over France into Germany in 1836 in the Great Nassau Balloon – a record not broken for more than 70 years until 1907.
By the time he retired in 1850, he had flown in a balloon more than 500 times and has gone down in history as one of the world’s most inspirational early aviators.
Yet despite this, Nick said not many people these days have heard of the most famous hot air balloon pilot of his time.
“He really was an adventurer, with his use of coal gas instead of hydrogen and his amazing flight from Vauxhall Gardens in London to Weilburg in Germany, where he is still remembered with a panel dedicated to him in the stained glass window in the church, “ said Nick.
But our pilot Russell Collins had certainly heard of him and was genuinely thrilled to be flying one of Charles Green’s descendants all these years later.
“Charles Green was a pioneering balloonist to whom modern aviation, passenger and pleasure hot air balloon flights owe a great deal,” said Russell.
“He paved the way for them and it was an absolute pleasure to fly Nick and Christine on their own first ever balloon flight.”
What does Nick think famous hot air balloon pilot Charles would have made of modern hot air ballooning and the fact it is now accessible to just about anyone who wants to fly?
“I think he would have been so happy that people are still experiencing the joy of balloon flights well over 150 years after his exploits. The early aeronauts have left a tremendous legacy that they could be very proud of.
“I think he would also be absolutely astounded at the progress of aviation in general; supersonic flight, aircraft that can carry 600 people, passenger planes that can fly for 16 or 17 hours without refuelling, men on the moon and probes travelling into deep space.
“And it all started with the pioneers of early flight – it’s simply incredible.”
Christine and Nick were also full of praise for our own, modern-day balloon pilot Russell.
“He was just wonderful – an excellent pilot with a real energy and enthusiasm for what he does.
“He did an excellent job and showed great care for his passengers.
“Would we do another balloon flight? I can say yes without any hesitation.
“I spent nearly 35 years as a commercial pilot flying around the world in planes such as the B747 and B777 and enjoyed every minute of that career.
“I never tire of the experience of flight except, that is, for the ghastly experience of modern airports and that’s something one doesn’t have to endure with a balloon flight!”
These days, the dream of a hot air balloon ride is now a reality for just about everyone, not just a famous hot air balloon pilot, with our prices starting at just £117.