Bad weather grounds flights at Bristol Balloon Fiesta - Metro .

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Heavy rains have forced this morning’s mass ascent at Bristol Balloon Fiesta to be cancelled.

Last night’s event was also ditched because of high winds, leading to safety fears if the balloons were to take to the skies.

The burners were still fired up so festival goers could see the balloons in their glory – but just tethered to the ground.

Tethered balloons in the main arena at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at the Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. (Picture: PA)
Balloon pilots burn during a ground tether flight after bad weather prevented flying at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at the Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. (Picture: PA)
The balloons didn’t take to the air because of this morning’s rain north of Bristol (Picture: PA)

The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is celebrating its 40th year and hundreds of balloons are eventually expected to take to the skies above the south west.

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Among those returning are Owlbert Einstein, the Fish, the Orange, a massive birthday cake, Rupert the Bear and the Michelin Man.

This morning, a rain front coming in from the north forced the ascent to be called off.

Chief pilot Clive Bailey explained: ‘The worst thing would be to set the balloons off this morning and get halfway across town and be hit by showers.’

A balloon pilot checks the rigging inside a canopy as crews inflate for a ground tether flight (Picture: PA)
Around 140 balloons are expected at the four-day event (Picture: PA)

He added the turbulence would make it very dangerous.

A total of seven mass ascents have been planned for the event at Ashton Court – 6am flights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and evening flights at 6pm on all four festival days.

So far the first two have been cancelled but there are hopes that others will still happen.

Last night, the first Night Glow did take place where the burners were fired up to illuminate the balloons in time to music.

The balloons may take to the skies later today (Picture: PA)

The festival is featuring 140 balloonists from around the world and half a million people are expected to attend the free fiesta.

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It is the biggest event of its kind in Europe.

Mr Bailey broke the altitude record at Bristol in 1994 when he and his wife Jo flew their balloon up to 22,500ft.

The balloons are filled with cool air before the burners are lit and the air heats up.

They take to the skies because hot air is less dense than cool air and so the air inside the balloon in less dense than that outside.

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