Cameron Z-400 (G-VBFV) – 5 August 2011

On the evening of Friday, 5 August 2011, Hatfield had an unexpected aerial visitor.

A Virgin Balloon Flights balloon (registered to Airxcite Ltd) which trades under the Virgin brand), Cameron Z-400 (G-VBFV), on a flight from St Albans came back down to earth, rather appropriately, at Ellenbrook Fields – once part of the Hatfield airfield.


Balloon in the air above the de Havilland Campus halls of residence

First seen in the air above the de Havilland Campus halls of residence. Although conditions look mild in this shot it became overcast and winds picked up.


Red Virgin Balloon seen low over Ellenbrook Fields

Balloon descending over Ellenbrook Fields. Now possible to make out it is a Virgin branded balloon.


Balloon now below tree top height

The balloon is now below the level of the treetops.


Balloon on the ground at Ellenbrook Fields

The balloon touches down at Ellenbrook Fields. Still fully inflated, the pilot did turn on the burners – possibly to try to get airborne again or to keep the canopy inflated till the ground support teams, which follow in four wheel drive vehicles with a trailer, arrive on the scene.


Balloon on the ground, seen in silhouette

The balloon on the ground seen in silhouette against a rapidly setting sun.


Balloon seen from a different angle

The balloon viewed from a different angle.


Balloon still upright but with the hot air released

Clearly a decision has been taken to end the flight here. The ground crew have arrived and the canopy begins to shrivel as the hot air is released.


Close up of the crowded passenger basket

A close up of the basket shows it had a full complement of passengers on board.


The canopy begins to topple as the ground crew haul it down

The canopy begins to topple as two members of the ground crew haul it down.


Another view of the collapsing canopy

Another view of the collapsing canopy.


Canopy on its side

The canopy is now on the ground on its side. There appeared to be a framework or hoops inside at the top which prevented it from collapsing completely.


Another view of the balloon with the ground crew still keeping a grip of the cables

Another view of the collapsed balloon with a member of the ground crew keeping a firm grip on the cables. Behind him, on the perimeter track, are the support vehicles – a 4WD with a trailer for the balloon and basket, and a minibus for the passengers.


Another view of the canopy with people alongside giving an idea of its size

A view of the canopy from a different angle. The people in front give an idea of its size.


The canopy silhouetted against the fading light

The canopy seen against the fading light. The ground crew still have a lot of work to do to safely collapse it completely and pack it away.


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