Thieves steal 60ft hot air balloon

THIEVES with lofty ideas have snatched a giant 60ft-tall hot air balloon worth �50,000.

THIEVES with lofty ideas have snatched a giant 60ft-tall hot air balloon worth �50,000.

The balloon which can carry 10 passengers, was being stored in a barn near Chelmsford between trips when it was stolen.

Graeme Scaife, director of the British School of Ballooning, warned the thieves not to attempt a joy ride in the stolen balloon as it could prove deadly.

He said: “Unless they are balloonists they won't know what they are doing and it could be very, very dangerous.

“The balloon is a registered aircraft and can only be flown by a trained pilot. If anyone else attempts to inflate it it could go terribly wrong.”

The huge burgundy and cream coloured balloon is used for pleasure flights and training pilots and would fill two thirds of the Albert Hall once inflated.

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Mr Scaife said: “It's about 60ft tall when inflated and 210,000 cubic feet. It has British School of Ballooning written on it so it's pretty distinctive. If anyone tried to inflate it, it would be spotted very quickly.”

The balloon envelope, basket, burner, five gas tanks and two giant fans were being stored on a 16ft long trailer in a barn at Roxwell, near Chelmsford.

The thieves are believed to have towed the trailer away some time between Saturday, September 5 and Sunday, September 6.

The British School of Ballooning said it has alerted over clubs and enthusiasts as well as the Civil Aviation Authority where the stolen balloon is registered.

The company is offering a �1,000 reward for any information which leads to the safe return of the balloon.

Mr Scaife said: “If anyone knows where it is or spots it we would really like to hear from them. We just want our balloon back."

Essex Police are investigating the theft.

A spokeswoman said: “It was stolen from a barn in Roxwell, Chelmsford. We believe a vehicle was used to tow the balloon away and it is obviously a very distinctive item.

“Anyone with information about it's whereabouts is asked to contact officers investigating.”

The British School of Balllooning can be contacted on 01428 707307 or by email