On The Beech

Above photos by Jemma Phillips from Doxey Creative Photography
G-BKGM, painted white as above, was on BBC1 in "Prized Apart" from 13th June 2015 for 6 weeks.

Follow our progress

Our blog: http://onthebeech.blogspot.co.uk

Position tracker:http://yb.tl/prepare2go1

Route plan:

Beech 18 G-BKGM

More than twenty years ago the germ of an idea came to Phil Dunnington. Could an elderly aeroplane with lots of character and a travelling lightweight balloon be combined to create one of the world's most unique and exciting aviation adventures? Even at the outset only one aircraft fitted the bill - the venerable but reliable workhorse that is the Beech 18, capable of carrying people and cargo over distances of 1000 miles (1600km) at a time. The balloon had to fit inside too, of course!

Then, in the summer of 2014 Phil was visiting an aviation exhibition at which a handful of aircraft were displayed for sale - and one was a Beech 18. After some careful calculations - including a trial loading of the balloon - the idea was slowly transformed into reality and 'On the Beech' was born. Flight permissions, safety issues, aircraft reliability and pilot team all had to be considered by the new owners of G-BKGM, affectionately known as "Betty the Beech".

The plan now is to fly 'Betty' from the UK to New Zealand - and possibly around the world - leaving in May 2016. The team will have a Cameron balloon on board which will be used for balloon flights on the stop-overs. Never before has such a combination of adventures been possible and it has taken Phil over 20 years to bring this to fruition.

"Gone With The Wind" is a Bristol company, owned and run by Phil and Allie Dunnington. They fly Bristol-made Cameron hot air balloons worldwide, on commercial, tourist and film-making flights. Recent work includes a three part BBC wildlife documentary on Burma for the Bristol based BBC natural history unit, "The World's Greatest Balloon Adventures" on ARTE, and tailor-made expeditions to the world's remotest corners, ranging from Arctic Canada to Mongolia.

The first part of the planned adventure is a series of hops from the UK to Cuba via the Orkneys, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, US and the Bahamas. The aircraft will be operating under the name of 'Bristol Airways Ltd.'

Not only will each sector of the journey have a tale to tell of flying an old aeroplane through some of the world's most challenging regions and then, between flights, getting airborne in their two-person Voyager balloon. Many destinations have never seen a balloon before.

Meanwhile the Beech 18 is undergoing refurbishment at RGV Aviation at Gloucestershire airport/Staverton and work is on target for the 14th of May 2016 departure. West Country engineering expertise is contributing to the safe completion of this epic journey.

Short history of the Beechcraft

Built at Beechcraft Inc. factory in Wichita, Kansas, USA in 1952 for the Royal Canadian Air Force our aeroplane served for nearly a decade as a trainer for up to six navigators using traditional star- and sun-shots and basic radio aids.

Sold onto the Canadian civilian market as a survey aircraft it became registered CFSUQ at the start of a fascinating world-wide career undertaking photogrammetric and mapping tasks. Its final project was based at Dar-el-Beida in Algeria before a ferry flight on 4 August 1981 towards its home country. That flight was abruptly terminated at Prestwick, Scotland when the owners ran out of funds and, after a period of storage she took up a new career delivering newspapers throughout the British Isles.

Her final more restful period with Anthony Hutton and subsequently Andy Foan on the UK airshow circuit in various representative military colour schemes ended in February 2015 in mock-1930s style as a link aeroplane in a BBC TV series titled 'Prized Apart'.

Now owned privately by Phil & Allie Dunnington as G-BKGM and in the colours of their company, Bristol Airways Ltd., she is being prepared for greater things in 2016.


Owners of balloon and aircraft: Phil and Allie Dunnington, Bristol UK
Company: Gone-with-the-Wind Ltd. / Bristol Airways Ltd.
Website: www.gonewiththewind.uk.com
Blog: onthebeech.blogspot.co.uk

The aircraft: Beech 18
Registration: G-BKGM
Name: 'Betty the Beech'
Built: 1952, Witchita, KA., USA
Hours flown: 11,000
Pilots: Andy Foan, Bill Tollett, Ed Dablin

The balloon: Cameron V-65 with ultra-light folding basket
Registration: G-BPGD
Name: 'Silver Lining'
Built: 2002, Bristol, UK
Hours flown: 150
Pilots: Phil and Allie Dunnington

Maintenance Organisation: RGV Aviation, Gloucestershire Airport, Staverton, UK
Insurer: Hayward Aviation Ltd, London

Start: Bristol, UK and Kirkwall, Orkneys
Date: 16.8.2016
Duration: approximately 3 years

1st sector: Iceland-Greenland-Canada- USA-various Caribbean Islands-Cuba-Florida, USA
2nd sector: Florida-Mexico-Central America-Ecuador-Panama-USA
3rd sector: USA-Alaska-Aleutian Islands-Russia-Japan-Philippines-Indonesia-Australia-New Zealand

Click here to see a Flying In Ireland article about the project.

Click here to see a Propliner article about G-BKGM, by Pete Bish.


Future Trip Options:

South Africa-Lesotho-Swaziland-Mozambique-Botswana

After our initial recce by hopper in Oct 2010, we are planning to set up a 5-countries Balloon Expedition including flights in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Botswana. The trip will be around 2 weeks long with self-drive vehicles and trailers to tow the balloons. Stay in lovely local lodges and fly over different beautiful and interesting African countryside.


‘Spirituality and tranquility in Japan’

Come with me to discover the autumnal beauty of Japan with its beautiful secluded temples and gardens. We shall start the tour in southern Kyushu, visit the still active volcano Mt. Aso, take a cruise through the Japan Inland Sea to Osaka, wander through the temples of Kyoto, travel by Shinkansen to Hakone to catch a view of the holy mountain Fujiyama. This tour will include special overnights at monasteries, a meditation lesson, some short walks and an introduction to Japanese tea ceremony and other traditions.

click here for proposed itinerary



New trips to either the southern Parts of Burma including Moulmein, the Golden Rock and stunning Mergui archipelago or Northern Burma with elephant camps near the Himalayans or a cruise along the Chindwin river to Naga-land. One trip is planned to include horse trekking. Itineraries will be published here shortly.


Notes for Balloonists:

All those tours can be linked up with ongoing balloon meets in those countries such as the Thailand Balloon Fiestas in Nov/Dec or the Saga Meet in Japan.