It’s 40 years ago this month (November) since Nottingham & Derby Hot Air Balloon Club was started. The club was founded by John Webster who in 1978 was the managing director of Nottingham Building Society. Balloons were quite a novelty in the 1970s and Mr Webster happened to see a balloon flying near Nottingham in summer 1978. He followed it and after watching it land chatted to the pilot Stuart Bridge from Gamston who arranged to fly him on another day. He immediately decided that this would be a brilliant way to advertise Nottingham Building Society so purchased a green and white balloon featuring the building society logo of Robin Hood. John Webster decided that the cheapest way to fly the balloon regularly would be to form a club of enthusiasts so adverts were placed in several local newspapers. About 40 people attended the inaugural meeting. The club was originally called Nottingham & Sheffield Hot Air Balloon Club but the name Sheffield was dropped after a few years and today is known as Nottingham & Derby Hot Air Balloon Club as membership is split roughly equally between Notts and Derby.
The club is still going strong after 40 years and has flown about a dozen different balloons during this time including the famous cottage shaped balloon which had its maiden flight from Wollaton Park in 1981. Last year the club was one of 456 balloons which set a new world record in France for the largest number of balloons launching in under an hour.
The club is believed to be unique as the only balloon club in the country with membership open to the general public. The club does not sell balloon rides. Instead members take turns being on the ground crew and then get to fly in the basket with one of the clubs 3 pilots on another outing. If someone is really keen then there is also the possibility to train as a balloon pilot which takes about 2 years.
A special gala dinner with live jazz band is being held on Saturday 1st December to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Ian Hooker who is current chairman of the BBAC (British Balloon & Airship Club) was one of the founder members from 1978 and will be the main guest speaker talking about the early days of the club. Nine original members from 1978 have been tracked down and are attending the dinner. The club would like to try and locate other former members to invite them too. Former club members who would like to attend the dinner can phone 0115-8541028 or 07958-701938 for full details.