Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 10:59 UK

Go ahead for tethered blimp 'flights' at Cardiff Bay

SkyFlyer
The SkyFlyer can reach heights of 390ft and carry 16 people

Tethered "flights" over Cardiff Bay for up to 16 passengers in a helium-filled blimp are set for take off.

A firm with links to veteran balloonist Per Lindstrand says the city is to be the first to host a balloon designed to go aloft in stronger winds.

Lindstrand AeroPlatforms says its SkyFlyer balloon will take people in an open gondola up to 390ft (120m).

Cardiff planners have approved plans to build a 25m access pier into the bay, from which the SkyFlyer will launch.

Lindstrand AeroPlatforms director Alastair Gunning said: "You will have the sensation of flying; you will have the wind in your hair."

First take-off

You should be able to see 25 miles [in good conditions], able to see the bridges between England and Wales and both sides of the Bristol Channel.
Alastair Gunning, Lindstrand AeroPlatforms

Mr Gunning said he hoped to have the first take-off by September.

The firm is to source the balloon from Per Lindstrand's balloon manufacturing firm in Oswestry, Shropshire, on the English-Welsh border.

Lindstrand, who has broken world records for hot air balloons for distance, duration and altitude, has billed the SkyFlyer as a "revolutionary" design that can fly in near gale-force weather conditions.

Linstrand Technologies' website said: "This balloon is like no other, the envelope is in the shape of an airship and has a gondola suspended below that can carry up to 16 passengers.

"This new balloon is attached to a ground winch that is positioned on a rotational platform."

Air pocket

Mr Gunning said a single cable would fix the blimp to a 12-metre platform, which passengers would approach via the gangway for their 15-minute "flight".

He said the blimp, filled with helium but with a fan-controlled air pocket inside to help maintain its shape, was a capable of going aloft in wind speeds of up to 40 knots.

He said its design meant it constantly faced into the wind providing the "sensation of flight" even though it was tethered.

He said: "When it goes up, it is flying on the lift of helium and its aerodynamic shape.

"You should be able to see 25 miles [in good conditions], able to see the bridges between England and Wales and both sides of the Bristol Channel.

"We would expect to be able to fly on most reasonable days throughout the year."

An electric winch in the launch platform would pull the blimp back to earth, he said.

The firm already operates tethered balloon flights at Leeds Castle in Kent. Mr Gunning said SkyFlyer tickets would be comparable in price.

Cardiff planners have approved some advertising on the blimp permanently but restricted others to 12 months.



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