Hot air balloonist and director of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Phil Dunnington and his wife, Allie Dunnington departed from the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club for the first stage of their round the world flight.
The trip will fulfil a 20 year dream by flying an historic aircraft, known as ‘Betty the Beech’ around the world. At each stop along the route Phil and Allie will fly one of the lightest hot air balloons to see the sights which will make for a unique and interesting aviation based adventure.
Planning for the trip started back in 2014 by choosing a suitable aircraft for the adventure. Phil was visiting an aviation exhibition and noticed a Beech 18 displayed for sale, after some tests and calculations Betty the Beech was purchased, restored and painted in a Bristol blue colour and titled “Bristol Airways”, the company owned by Phil and Allie. Only one aircraft fitted the bill – the venerable but reliable workhorse that is the Beech 18, capable of carrying people and cargo over distances of 1000 miles at a time.
Betty the Beech was built at Beechcraft Inc in Wichita, Kansas in 1952 initially for the Canadian Air Force before going on to become an aerial survey aircraft and then starring in a BBC TV series titled “Prized Apart”.
The first part of the adventure will comprise of a series of short hops from the United Kingdom to Cuba which will see Phil and Allie fly across the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the United States. When Betty lands the hot air balloon designed by Phil and Allie in conjunction with Cameron Balloons, will get airborne. Many destinations along the way may not have seen a hot air balloon before.
Barry Bailey, Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club, said:
“We are delighted to work with Bristol Airport to be the starting point for Betty’s amazing journey. As the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club is one of the oldest private flying clubs in the UK it links up the aviation heritage of the city whilst showcasing Bristol to the rest of the world. “
Photo courtesy of On the Beech.