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Hot air balloon drops in on Marden school

Lessons were abandoned at Marden Primary School this morning when a hot-air balloon unexpectedly landed in the school playing field.

After assuring himself that the occupants were unharmed, head teacher Malcolm Goddard allowed his pupils out of class to admire the unexpected visitor.

He said: “The pilot was very kind and explained to the children how the balloon worked. They were very excited - as we all were.”

The balloon makes an unexpected landing: picture by Colin Whittle
The balloon makes an unexpected landing: picture by Colin Whittle

The balloon, which had 15 passengers on board, made a controlled landing on the field which was not being used at the time.

The balloon’s support vehicle arrived at the school in Goudhurst Road 20 minutes later and the balloon was deflated and taken away.

Mr Goddard said: “All the children are busy now writing stories about adventures in a hot-air balloon.”

A spokesman for Virgin Balloon Flights said: “Our balloon’s landing at Marden Primary School was completely normal, although we understand it came as a rather exciting surprise for pupils and teachers.

“Hot air balloons can’t be steered in a traditional sense, they travel in the direction the wind takes them before being brought in to land, as aviation law allows them to, wherever our pilot see a large enough, open space.

“A lot of the time this is out in the countryside but depending on the wind, there are times when it is in a more built up area. This is when they tend to cause the most excitement due to their huge size and the fact a hot air balloon isn’t something most people see every day.

“Our big red balloon took off from Wadhurst at about 8.35am and our pilot, Damon Bridger, who has been flying with Virgin Balloon Flights for more than 20 years, began looking for a suitable place to land shortly before 9.30am.

“As he flew towards the school, the pupils and teachers had all come out to watch and our pilot, seeing how excited the children were, called down to ask the head teacher if he was happy for him to land in the playing field.

“After touching down, our passengers enjoyed their traditional Champagne toast, before packing the balloon away and heading back to the original launch site.”

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