Major Tim Pig drops into Ipswich town centre
Tomorrow the world will be watching as Tim Peake and his crew mates land in Kazakhstan but today all eyes were on a different astronaut.
Major Tim Pig made his debut appearance in Ipswich at lunchtime, causing a stir among shoppers at Sailmakers.
Major Tim is sponsored by the EADT and Ipswich Star and will form part of the Pigs Gone Wild trail launching in Ipswich on Monday, June 27.
Testing their brand new Unimog, Suffolk fire crews strapped a harness to the astronaut and hoisted him into the air at the Tower Ramparts Bus Station.
They let the pig fly over the pedestrianised area, dipping down by a tree and spinning around to face the crowds.
Passers-by stopped to watch the action, staring up at the sky as the pig hovered above.
Major Tim was then safely returned to terra firma - just 24 hours ahead of his namesake’s landing on the vast steppe of Kazakhstan.
Warren Rodwell, of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, was controlling the appliance and he said: “This is the first time we have used this appliance, Suffolk has just bought three - one for Princes Street in Ipswich, one for Lowestoft South and the third will be at Bury St Edmunds.
“They replace the old Unimogs which were 20 years old, and they have enhanced capabilities.
“We use them to rescue horses and other animals trapped in dykes and ditches, and they help us deal with rural fires as well.
“They have off-road capability as they are four-wheel drive and we can use them to tow the new boats.”
Various pods can be attached to the Unimbo, making it multi-purpose.
“Today has been a good training exercise,” said Mr Rodwell. “We are really happy with how it works.”
The Pigs Gone Wild trail is being run by St Elizabeth Hospice and will see 39 giant pigs and 30 juniors hidden around town.
Trail maps will be available, with each location detailed, so you can find each pig and mark them off. Alternatively, you will be able to download an app and scan the pigs as you find them, unlocking rewards as you make your way around the trail.
Mike Sorhaindo, manager of the Sailmakers, said: ”I am looking forward to the trail, there has been a lot of pig talk, and the momentum is building.”
The Sailmakers has also sponsored a pig but, like most businesses, they are keeping the design under close wraps.
“Ours is a secret for now,” said Mr Sorhaindo. “It will be rolled out on the morning of the launch.”
The pigs will appear in the town over the weekend on June 25 and 26, ready for the official launch on the Monday morning.