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Hot air balloon makes history by touching Slemish summit

Jane Witherspoon

Reporter:

Jane Witherspoon

The Little Ollie Balloon Team has created a piece of history by being one of the only hot air balloons to make a connection with the top of a mountain, when they recently touched the highest point of Slemish.

It is hard for a balloon to land on top of a small space as often balloons do not come to a total stop, they drag a little, therefore the team were able to make a brief connection and landed further down the mountain.

The Little Ollie Balloon Team have been in business for 15 years and are run by Henry Law and pilot Richard Pearse.

Flying for 30 years, Richard is fully qualified with a private pilot's licence for balloons and airships.

He knows how to accurately read wind and weather patters and enjoys the tranquility of being in the air, so being associated with a little bit of ballooning history has definitely been a highlight for him.

Speaking to the Guardian, Richard said: "Being able to touch the top of Slemish was brilliant.

"As the top of Slemish is too small to land on, we made brief contact and then moved on to a nearby field.

“When we first took off, I wasn't sure that we would be able to land, but the wind was just right as we approached it, so I thought why not give it a try!

"When flying it's important to work with the wind to plot the direction and path of a flight."

Richard explained that hot air balloons work because hot air rises.

By heating the air inside the balloon with the burner, it becomes lighter than the cooler air on the outside.

This causes the balloon to float upwards, as if it were in water. Obviously, if the air is allowed to cool, the balloon begins to slowly come down.

Henry Law, owner of The Little Ollie Balloon Team is a member of the retrieve team. He said he was "delighted" the balloon was able to make contact with Slemish.

HISTORIC MOMENT

He said: "In order for me to retrieve the balloon when it lands, we use very precise location finders and two way radios, however I was able to see the balloon on the side of Slemish.

"Richard had radioed through to me to say he thought he would be able to make contact and I'm so glad our on board GoPro camera captured the historic moment!"

Expalining how the balloon comes into land, Henry said: "We normally like to land in a green field, and always try to seek the permission of the land owner before doing so.

We pick non-crop fields and ones without livestock so as to cause no damage or inconvenience.

"Quite a large area is needed for landing as sometimes the balloon travels along the ground before coming to a stop, therefore the top of a mountain wouldn't have been safe to try to make a total stop.

“However, making contact is a great achievement and we are so proud we were able to achieve it."

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