On Friday morning last, in the small hours of a misty Doha morning, MB ascended silently into the blue heavens.
Much like Jesus Christ did all those years ago MB?
Well, no lads. Not at all like JC did. MB was actually standing in a steel-framed basket that was attached to a rather large balloon. It was powered by butane gas, not divine intervention.
The balloon was first pumped full of cold air using a motorised fan, and in the later stages the young English balloon pilot called Pater pressed the handle of the burner and the influx of hot air caused the balloon to rise vertically. MB’s balloon, and a basket full of Qatar residents, rose into the Doha sky, one of two balloons that young balloon pilot Peter reported over his radio to the air traffic control tower at a nearby airport. MB prayed that the air traffic control lads took young Peter the pilot seriously, as MB could think of nothing worse than an Airbus A380 ploughing at high speed into MB’s basket in the semi-darkness of the Doha morn. In any event, any planes seen over the next 60 minutes or so were many kilometers south of MBs location. ‘Rodger that’ replied some voice from the tower.
MB had spent a few days thinking about the balloon ride in advance of the event. Would a fear of heights suddenly strike all the basket residents? MB can honestly answer no, after the event. The silence and the very gentle movement of the basket gave a feeling more of peace than anything else. It was even difficult to sense any feeling of upward or downward motion.
But one thought intrigued MB in the lead-up – how does a balloonist/pilot steer a balloon that is surely being directed by air currents and prevailing winds. So MB blurted out a question that caused a silence to descend over the other basketeers – How do you direct the balloon to its landing spot Mr Peter?
All faces gazed at Peter the Pilot.
I do not know where we will land, said Peter the directionless Pilot, with an honesty that did zero for MB’s feeling of apprehension.
Seriously? replied MB.
Well, I do not know exactly where we will land, but I have a general idea, said Peter the Approximate Landing Area pilot.
Thank God for that, answered MB!
At different altitudes, I am picking up different currents that are flowing in different directions, explained Peter the Altitude pilot, and I can use the currents to take the balloon in different directions, approximately.
And there the conversation rested. Peter was actually an airline pilot between jobs. Another of the basketeers was also a pilot working for the local Qatar Airways, so there was much talk of piloting and planes as MB drifted over the Doha landscape some 2,000 feet below.
Thanks to BR for the idea. Great one!