Up, up and away...hot air balloons lift off in mass launch


Colourful balloons of all shapes and sizes scattered across the skyline of south-west England as 116 hot air balloons took part in a mass launch. 

Thousands of visitors descended on Bristol as the city played host to the 38th year of Europe's largest ballooning event over the weekend.

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta featured four days of displays by hot air balloons from across the world, in all shapes and sizes.

Balloons soared from the Ashton Court estate at dawn and dusk, taking in views of the city including the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Late night visitors watched night glows, in which 30 teams lit up their balloons to music before a firework display.

Newly qualified pilot Mandy Thompson, 34, flew the SM Gauge balloon - a four-year-old Cameron Z90 - alongside 115 other balloons at dawn on Sunday .

 "It was amazing," said Mrs Thompson, who received her licence in June.

"I'm glad I was one of the first out and got out of the pack and then was able to see them all coming out behind us.

"I started coming to the fiesta when I was five years old.

"We used to come and watch the night glows but as the years have gone on being a part of it and experiencing it - it is fantastic.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm so lucky to have it."

Mrs Thompson, of Patchway, Bristol, flew alongside balloons piloted by her husband Craig Thompson, 36, and brother Richard Simpkins, 32.

"I'm petrified of heights, quite a few pilots are but because you are moving with it, it is fine" she added.

"The trick is to look out and not look down. I also know that I'm in control of coming down to the height that I want."