Nottingham & Derby Hot Air Balloon Club History

Nov 1978 Wollaton Park first club inflation Nottingham and Derby Balloon Club First Inflation First club outing after club officially founded May 2005 G-BXCN during channel crossing

Nottingham & Derby Hot Air Balloon Club was started by a group of enthusiasts in 1978 and has been a regular sight around the East Midlands for 33 years. The idea of forming a local club came about in the summer of 1978 when John Webster who was the Managing Director of Nottingham Building Society at the time saw a hot air balloon (G-BEFE) flying near Nottingham. He followed it and after watching it land persuaded the pilot Stuart Bridge to take him up for a flight. John Webster immediately fell in love with the sport and decided to buy a balloon to publicise the expanding building society. He calculated that a hot air balloon would be cheaper than a single television advert.

An order for a new balloon was placed with Cameron Balloons in Bristol in June 1978. The balloon made its maiden flight from Wollaton Park in Nottingham on Friday 6th October piloted by Stuart Bridge with John Webster as passenger. The green and white balloon featured a large picture of Robin Hood which was the building society logo and had a registration of G-NBSI. It was decided that the best way to fly the balloon regularly would be to form a local club. A small article was published in the Nottingham Evening Post on 28th September 1978 inviting anyone interested in learning about hot air ballooning to attend a meeting at the Nottingham Building Society Offices. About 40 people attended that inaugural club meeting on 12 November. The club was initially called the Nottingham & Sheffield Hot Air Balloon Club as the building society was expanding rapidly around the Sheffield area and they wanted to fly regularly around both cities. The word Sheffield was dropped from the clubs name after a few years and it was simply known as Nottingham Hot Air Balloon Club. In late 2009 the club name was officially changed to be Nottingham & Derby Hot Air Balloon Club as membership was split roughly 50:50 between the 2 cities.

The club is believed to be unique in the UK as the only balloon group with membership open to the general public. The club is run by volunteers and members take turns at flying in the balloons and also driving the retrieve vehicle. Over the years the club has owned 11 different balloons. Members flew the famous Cottage special shape balloon G-COTT from 1981 until 2003. They currently fly two complete 105 balloons: G-BXCN and G-WILB.

One of the highlights in the club’s history was in May 2005 when Tim Ward and Dave Briggs flew the English Channel in G-BXCN covering a distance of 56 miles. Members have taken balloons over to meets in the USA three times and also once to a meet in Australia. Club balloons have appeared on television several times, initially in a TV advert for the Nottingham Building Society and then in a special advert for Japanese television. In 1989 G-COTT appeared briefly in an episode of the ITV drama Boon. In March 2005 G-BXCN was used in several live slots on the BBC Breakfast Show for the launch of a banner for Experience Nottinghamshire.

In July 2011 members will be taking G-BXCN to Europe’s largest balloon meet at Chambley / Metz in France where they will be taking part in an attempt to break the world record for the biggest simultaneous launch of hot air balloons.

A detailed history of the club was published in 2009 and a few copies are still available – contact for further details.