Incident Vanden Bemdem A Gas Balloon 'Jambo' G-AVAT,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 282780
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Date:Saturday 20 July 1968
Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Vanden Bemdem A Gas Balloon 'Jambo'
Owner/operator:Anthony John Francis Smith (regd. owner)
Registration: G-AVAT
MSN: 81
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Halland, near Lewes, East Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:Ardingly Showground, Ardingly, Sussex
Destination airport:Halland, near Lewes, East Sussex
G-AVAT, was an orange and silver Van den Bemden hydrogen gas balloon called 'Jambo' (Swahili for 'hello'). It was wrecked shortly after landing at Halland, East Sussex on 20 July 1968.

Earlier in its career 'Jambo' had achieved fame when it was flown by the sometime science correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, Anthony Smith. He had first developed an interest in balloons the year before the centenary of the publication of Jules Verne's novel 'Five Weeks in a Balloon' - in which Samuel Fergusson, a fictional science correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, embarks upon a balloon safari across Africa - which inspired Smith to replicate the journey. However his problem was that he wasn't a licensed balloon pilot and in 1962 the UK had almost forgotten about lighter than air flying machines and the regulations governing their operation had been gathering dust since before WW 2. Thus there was nowhere in the UK that he could train as a balloon pilot and the UK authorities could not, or would not, issue him with the necessary licence. Nor, at that time, was anyone in the UK manufacturing balloons.

Undeterred, Smith crossed the Channel and placed an order in Holland with Albert van den Bemden for a gas balloon and, whilst there, he was able to undergo balloon flying training with experienced balloonists, Jo and Nina Boseman. Thus equipped with a balloon and having been trained to fly it, in 1963 he, Douglas Botting (cameraman) and Alan Root (film producer) set off for Africa with plans to repeat Fergusson's journey across the continent. As did Fergusson, they started from Zanzibar and flew the balloon across the Zanzibar Channel to the African mainland, where they made a number of flights across the African plains. This adventure was recorded by Smith in his book 'Throw Out Two Hands'.

The advantage of taking a cameraman and a film producer with him in the balloon (truly to replicate Verne's fictional adventure he should have taken his manservant and a professional hunter!) was that the film that they made could be shown as a series of African wildlife films on BBC Television - which commissioned more of the same, produced in the same manner, in subsequent years. In 1964 Jambo was used to make a trans-alpine flight from Switzerland to Italy. Smith can be said to have, almost single-handedly, revived British interest in lighter than air flying. In 1965 he formed the British Balloon & Airship Club, of which he became the first chairman. In 1967 Jambo was flown across the Channel to France.

Jambo's 1967 cross-channel flight took off from Rye on Saturday 4 February, landing at Berck-Plage, near le Touquet, a little more than four hours later. The balloon was piloted by Malcolm Brighton who, on arrival in France, was issued with his UK balloon pilot's licence by Wing Commander Gerry Turnbull, the Board of Trade examiner (I think that, prior to this, he was the only person alive who held such a licence). The other two occupants of the basket were Wing Commander Turnbull's wife, Jean, and his daughter, Christine. The flight was sponsored by 'The People' newspaper.

Subsequently Smith and Jambo participated in numerous balloon events in the UK and across Europe. However in 1968, after landing the balloon exploded, caught fire and was destroyed - fortunately without injury or loss of life. The story of this is told in another of Smith's books, 'The Dangerous Sort'.

The crash location of Halland, near Lewes, East Sussex is approximately 19 miles south south east of the takeoff point of the Ardingly Showground, Selsfield Road, Ardingly, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Registration G-AVAT cancelled 20 July 1968 (same day as the crash) as "Destroyed".


4. G-AVAT last takeoff 28 July 1968:


Revision history:

11-Sep-2022 22:38 Dr. John Smith Added
11-Sep-2022 22:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location]

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