Liquefied petroleum gas has many uses but AvantiGas engineer Steve Chatfield has developed his skills with one of the more unusual applications – hot air ballooning – and his expertise was much in evidence at this weekend’s Chatsworth Country Fair in Derbyshire.
Thanks to Steve’s spare-time obsession, he can combine business with pleasure now as he helps fuel hot air balloons with AvantiGas LPG at more and more events around the UK and takes flight himself – aided by sponsorship from the gas company.
Taking on sole provision for fuelling the gas burners that heat the air to give the balloons their lift is fast becoming an AvantiGas speciality.
Steve was on hand to help fuel everyone’s flights and to lift off in his own AvantiGas-sponsored ‘envelope’ over the weekend and will soon be soaring over the English countryside again at Longleat in Wiltshire, where the annual ‘Sky Safari’ takes places over three days (14-16 September) and is the UK’s biggest balloon meet.
AvantiGas will be fuelling all the balloons at Longleat, while at Chatsworth they flew at dawn and dusk over the weekend. We also sponsored the fuel for a spectacular ‘Moon Glow’ outside the great house. A dozen balloons including the AvantiGas balloon were anchored to the ground as the burners which usually provide the hot air for lift-off provided a fiery display for spectators.
Steve’s part-time ballooning career meanwhile is reaching new heights: “I’ve just completed my training as a professional commercial pilot. I’ve been studying hard and I’ve just finished it all off, which is amazing,” said Steve.
He first started ballooning 19 years ago but taking this commercial qualification lifts Steve to another level. He admits it has been a challenge: “I started studying hard about a year ago and went to sit my exams at the Civil Aviation Authority in Gatwick. They were very hard exams, and I’ve done all my flight training, so I’m very pleased to have passed.”
AvantiGas involvement has also reached another level as the company, based in Staveley near Chesterfield, has agreed to a second year of sponsorship for Steve and will be promoted in return via a huge new banner to be attached to the balloon or ‘envelope. This could be in place in time for the last events of this season and will be prominently on show for all of next year’s meets.
“Once I get the design sorted I will get a massive 23-feet banner for the side of the balloon, which is pretty cool, and obviously get it in the air,” said Steve.
For the Exclusive Cup balloon event at Longleat there will be a record number of more than 150 balloons taking part this year and as well as their flights this event will also feature ‘Night Glows’ as burners flare to a musical soundtrack for a memorable ground-based display.
AvantiGas Head of Engineering Stephen Hallett said: “AvantiGas is excited to have the opportunity to sponsor Steve’s hot-air ballooning this year. Ballooning is an evocative and exciting form of aviation which captures the imagination.
“And we’re proud to be represented amongst the crowds of balloons taking flight during events such as Longleat and Chatsworth, as well as supplying them with the low-carbon propane fuel that they use on-board.
“Participating in these events also helps us provide invaluable experience to our many engineers and apprentices who are on-hand supporting the events.”
If you'd like AvantiGas to fuel your balloon meet