The Italian Aerospace Information Web
by Aeromedia - corso Giambone 46/18 - 10135 Torino (Italy)

3rd Italian Single-seat Balloon Meeting Over the Wineyards of Barolo

On October 23-25, 2009, the town of Barolo and the so called Langa - a romantic hilly area with world-famous wineyards - hosted the Third International Single-Seat Balloon Meeting. Again, most of the cloudhoppers came from the United Kingdom. In fact the weather conditions there are particularly unfavourable for solo ballooning, where the pilot is totally exposed to sudden showers. This is also one of the reasons why the annual Barolo meeting has become such a popular event.
The logistics of the 2009 Italian cloudhopper meeting were again organized by Pietro Contegiacomo, an enthusiast Italian ballonist and owner of Balloon Promotion, one of the few certified balloon and hot-air airship commercial operators in Italy.
The single-seater hot-air balloons – also dubbed cloudhoppers or one-man balloons - have a small envelope, usually shaped like an inverted droplet, with a volume of no more than 42,000 cubic feet. They can be equipped with a small basket or with a very basic seat connected to one or two gas bottles.
During the three days of the Meeting, the 9 participating single-seat balloons made a total of 5 collective non-competitive flights, taking off from the area around the sports fields of Barolo.
The "Paolo Contegiacomo Memorial" prize, now in its 3rd year, dedicated by the brother Pietro and the British balloonists to the late pioneer of the Italian balloon movement during the ‘Eighties, was awarded to Pete Bish of the UK, a point of reference for the balloon field, being the editor of the Zebedee List, a web-site devoted to the second-hand balloon market, including hot-air airships, accessories and all products related to the lighter-than-air sector. Pete has been a true enthusiast of the one-man balloons since their inception.
During the fourth collective sortie - in a misty autumnal dawn - the Aeromedia editor/photographer was on board the four-place escort balloon. Fresh southerly winds of no more than 7 knots gently pushed the group of cloudhoppers towards the farmlands of La Morra and Castiglione Falletto, where they landed after about an hour. During the flight, the pilots manoeuvered to come as near as possible to the escort-ship for a photographic close-up. After an uneventful medium-altitude flight over the green hills and red-roofed farms, Barry Birch, an expert British balloonist, landed gently near a farm at Annunziata, a community of La Morra.
Far more exciting was the recovery of his balloon, now deflating on a rain-soaked meadow encircled by wineyards, hazel-nut groves and thick acacia bushes. But, as usually occurs in these circumstances, the farm owner and his entire family came to the rescue, rolling up their sleeves and folding up the envelope and dismantling the parts of the basket. Then a borrowed tractor with a "biròcc" (a two-wheel cart in Piedmontese dialect) ensured a mud-safe journey up the slope to the nearest paved road. Here the “official” trailer was waiting for the easiest part of the task. All this demanding phase was energetically managed by Alison, the blonde “recovery-girl”.
Before the afternoon flight, the pilots temporarily focused their attention on the gastronomic theme of this year’s Meeting, the tripe which is famous in the Langa’s Culinary art. Initially, the British pilots were reluctant to taste this particular delicacy, tripe not being one of the "most favourite" British dishes. To persuade them, the organizers - as a joke - menaced “no tripe…no gas”, or “anyone who refuses the tripe gets no gas for the following sortie”. At this point, after an initial, tentative tasting, this local version of tripe enjoyed a well-merited wholesale success!

In the picture: One-man balloons overfly the Langa’s wineyards during the 3rd International Single-seat Balloon Meeting held at Barolo, Cuneo Province, on October 23, 24 and 25, 2009. (Aeromedia))

(Aeromedia, October 2009)