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.
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.
Balloon descending over Ellenbrook Fields. Now possible to make out it is a Virgin branded balloon.
The balloon is now below the level of the treetops.
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.
The balloon on the ground seen in silhouette against a rapidly setting sun.
The balloon viewed from a different angle.
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.
A close up of the basket shows it had a full complement of passengers on board.
The canopy begins to topple as two members of the ground crew haul it down.
Another view of the collapsing canopy.
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 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.
A view of the canopy from a different angle. The people in front give an idea of its size.
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.