What's it like to fly a Hopper?
One of the most asked questions from people who havent experienced flying a cloudhopper, is "what is it like to fly one"?
This isn't an easy question to answer, because it is different on so many levels. From a pilot's perspective, arriving from another balloon it is totally different as you make lots of smaller inputs and are constantly flying the balloon as the mass is so small. In a regular sized balloon you may burn for three seconds typically, in a hopper the duration is nearer one second but with more frequent pulsing as the balloon is never really flying straight and level.
From the layman's perspective, flying a hopper is all about exposure and sensory perception. Being in a seat supported by a five point harness, you feel everything more compared to being in a balloon with a basket. This is the nearest you can get to being a bird, and I often tell people that the sensation is akin to being aboard a three dimensional motorbike.
There is initially a vunerability feeling which quickly dissipates with experience, and as your experience grows so does the trust in the equipment. There is nothing to compare when you have the wind against your body, and control of the craft.
The problem comes with trying to express the sentiments of the flight so I have added a short video below from the One Man Meet taken in 2012 above Welshpool Monmouthshire Wales from around 1000feet above the ground. Hopefully you can glean a sense of what it is like firstly to be in the air on a beautiful winter's morning, with the mist still around the edge of the valley and secondly to have other hoppers around you.
Apologies for the fact that it was only taken with an Iphone but I hope it gives you a sense of the fun we all have in the air, but I was supposed to be concentrating on flying at the time , so its the best I could acheive.
Steve Roake in G-UHOP Ultramagic H-31B.