Radio Communications help Balloon Company to Soar

Radio Communications help Balloon Company to Soar

Two way radio equipment supplied by Icom UK is providing important assistance to the smooth operation of balloon company Merlin Balloons. The company uses a combination of licence free and avionic transceivers for communications between its hot air balloons and ground crew staff.

The crew use the IC-4088SR licence free handheld during launch and for communicating between the balloon and the retrieval vehicle.

Matthew Wady, owner of Merlin Balloons said, 'It gets pretty noisy when we use the petrol fans to inflate the balloon. If one person is at the bottom end of the balloon and someone is up at the top with the ropes the only safe way to communicate is by using radio'.

He went on to say 'When we operate out of Headcorn Airfield, we use the avionic transceivers (IC-A24) as this is restricted airspace and we need permission to enter/leave the area'.

Not only does the retrieval vehicle have an IC-4088SR in it at all times, there is also an IC-A110 avionic fixed transceiver installed for communicating with the IC-A24s. Matthew commented, 'The IC-A110 in our retrieval vehicle is brilliant, we get really high quality comms when we talk to the guys in the balloon. Once the pilot finds a suitable place to land, they radio down to the retrieval crew who then go and get permission to land from the land owner.'

Talking about the radios, Matthew said, 'This job would be impossible without radios. From launching the balloon, to getting air clearance and communicating with the retrieval vehicle they are in constant use. Even before we had the Icom branded balloon we always used Icom radios. We used to have IC-A2s which shows how long we’ve been using Icom radios. They are so robust and reliable. You’ll find a lot of balloon companies around the country use Icom.'

Merlin Balloons launch their balloons from a variety of locations around the Ashford area. The launch sites are selected to give the best flight path for any wind direction and for their stunning views over Kent. The balloons can travel about 8-10 miles during an hour long flight. Depending on the wind the balloon can end up anywhere from Canterbury to Maidstone or Romney to Faversham.

Throughout the year Merlin Balloon attend a number of shows and events. The highlight so far this year was the London Marathon where the Icom Balloon was seen by tens of thousands at the start line of the race.

Matthew said 'The London Marathon is a world famous event and we were thrilled to be there. The balloon got a lot of attention and the atmosphere at the start line was electric. As ever, the Icom radios performed faultlessly, which was just as well considering all the noise.'

Matthew said, 'This is a great but challenging job. It varies from day to day. You never know where the balloon will go, every flight is different. My ambition is to expand the company. Over the next few years I hope to get another balloon so we can fly three balloons at weekends. One thing is for sure that whatever happens we will still use Icom radios. They have never let us down and always exceeded our expectations.'


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