My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Patriotic tribute to a best friend with the Y-Cymro hot air balloon

Look to the skies over Wales and you might spot a brand new hopper hot air balloon, created in memory of Arwel Davies, who tragically passed away in July 2021 and featuring a huge Welsh Dragon.

Arwel’s friend Ian Jones has paid a heartfelt tribute to his best friend, by commissioning the hopper style (one man) hot air balloon, which made its maiden voyage in May in the town of Llandovery, alongside Arwel’s balloon.

The two best friends grew up together in west Wales, with Arwel introducing Ian to the ballooning community. They went to the same primary school where their friendship originated, and remained best friends throughout secondary and higher education. They played rugby together and were each other’s best-men at their weddings.

Arwel’s father, Eirian Davies, was an avid balloonist, often flying over the Towy Valley and passed on his love for the sport to his son. After introducing Ian to the world of ballooning he gave him the inspiration to obtain his PPL (private pilot licence) and to invest in his own balloon and more recently suggesting the idea of a hopper which had been on Ian’s mind for years.

Ian Jones, said this: “Arwel was the one who encouraged me to get my own balloon. Ballooning had been in his family for years and I was always fascinated by it. I was happy joining in, crewing and retrieving, until one day he told me that I needed to get my own, so with his help I began training immediately until I got my pilot’s licence. We made big plans together to bring ballooning back to Llandovery as “foot and mouth” ended the previous gatherings back in 2001, but our plans were halted when Covid-19 landed in March of 2020.

After Arwel lost his life so suddenly it urged me to commission the patriotic hopper in his honour and memory, and for everything he did to help me in ballooning and the whole community. On the hopper’s maiden voyage, we gathered as Arwel’s friends, locals and balloonists together. We called the gathering “AR y gorWEL” which beautifully united his name and the literal translation “ On the horizon”. During this weekend I had the great honour of flying Arwel’s balloon with his family and friends to celebrate his life.

Y-Cymro, is a hopper style balloon with a seat rather than a basket, and was made at the iconic Bristol factory of Cameron Balloons. The G-ILNJ envelope was printed with a giant Welsh Dragon over red, white and green panels, to pay a patriotic tribute to the much loved Welshman.