Looking back at the life of the Rix Petroleum Hot Air Balloon

1977 how to celebrate the Queens Silver Jubilee? Lets buy a hot air balloon. This is according to Alan Frank from Rix Petroleum, how the Rix Hot Air Balloon was born.

The first flight of the Rix Balloon, a Cameron 65,000 cu ft GBETP, piloted by Don Cameron took place on 2nd July 1977 at Burton Constable Hall near Hull.

Rix Hot Air Balloons
Three Rix branded hot air balloons in a field.

I then started to be trained , for my  balloon  licence, by Crispin Williams. Crispin was the British Balloon Champion and his day job was flying RAF Phantoms. Several flights later, exams and 1st solo flight completed, I gained my PPL .

Many village fetes, agricultural shows, schools were attended and lots of fun flying over the following years. The balloon was used very successfully to promote the opening in 1978 of the Rix Petroleum depot at Montrose. A memorable flight from the Arbroath Show in 1979, after watching small helium balloons, we took off on the seafront, flew out to sea, and then caught a higher wind which brought us back over land. We had a passenger, Sir Hugh Fraser the owner of Harrods, he loved it.

In 1995 after many hundreds of flying hours,  the balloon was getting porous and a new envelope with updated artwork and logo was purchased from Cameron Balloons reg. no GBPPA then in 1989 because of changes to display regulations I obtained a commercial pilots license.

After 23 years of great fun and adventures it was time to pass the honor on to the next generation......

The next generation of Rix Balloonists

Duncan Lambert Director of Rix Petroleum looks back at how he became the next generation Rix Balloon pilot....

I always had a passion for flying, I always wanted to fly helicopters, however, a reality check is that helicopters cost around £400 per hour to run, both in training, and then finally once qualified, so after trying both fixed-wing and gliding I decided to try ballooning, in my early days within Rix I had flown with Alan Frank our current pilot at that time,  and found the experience to be exhilarating, I helped out a little with retrieving but was frustrated by just watching, not long after that Alan left the company leaving the balloon without a pilot and just parked in the warehouse, I approached my director and asked if I could take over the team and learn to fly, yes, was the answer,  and that was the start of my ballooning career.

My next challenge was to find a local (P1) pilot that could train me, David Allum was well known within the ballooning circuit and became my instructor, he lived very close to me so it was a good fit.

To qualify as a pilot you need a log book to record your training, 16 hour’s of flying, 4 x instructor flights, 1 x recommendation flight, 1 x checkout flight and 1x solo flight, written examinations in Air law, navigation, meteorology, human performance and Balloon man ship .

I Complete all the above and then I was qualified, then started my adventures, it’s a little like learning to drive a car, just because you have the licence doesn’t mean you’re a good car driver, that comes with experience, I have had many a scape and bump over the years but managed to survive, the two balloons I have regularly flown have both had to be repaired over the years with burns, cuts and bruises but are repaired to full standard each time, the great thing about Ballooning?


The people, firstly the passenger’s, to see the reaction of a first time flyer is fantastic, you then have the farmer/landowner to meet and greet, that for most of the time is also fantastic, however, as all pilots will tell you,  its probably the most nerve racking moment as you shake the farmers hand an introduce yourself, and wait for the reaction, not all land owners are happy for you to land, every pilot will have story’s to tell about difficult retrieves.

You then have other balloonists, again a good crowd of people like minded who will help you with anything, I have been a member of the Pennine group now for over 10 years, and flown at times  with 10 x 20 other balloons its always a spectacle to behold.