Weather 6 - Meets 0
June has been described officially as the wettest since Noah built his boat and no let up seems in sight. Yet another planned event, The BBAC President’s Trophy, ended up being cancelled on account of the weather. This is sad as it was to herald in a fresh approach to competition ballooning and quite a few of our customers were intending to go. The interest in top level competition ballooning has dropped dramatically over the past few years, most citing the, pretty much, all computer-based competition tasks making it more of an aerial computer game than a hands-on test of skill and co-ordination. Having said that, when it comes to co-ordination skills, I doubt if I could both fly a balloon and get a computer to work!!! Hopefully this will be re-scheduled. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It is was with sadness that we learnt of Trevor Roche’s tragic death on Sunday 1st July at Old Warden Airfield whilst flying one of the Shuttleworth Collection’s aircraft. The accident happened when he apparently experienced difficulties with the DeHavilland DH53 Hummingbird aircraft he was to give a display in. Our deepest sympathy goes to his family and friends.
Formally the Chief Pilot for the Shuttleworth Collection, he previously flew Tornados which included a tour during the Gulf War. After he left the RAF he flew commercial airliners. Known to many balloonists who have visited Old Warden Airfield over the years he was always most helpful and encouraging and made the field available for fly-outs on numerous occasions.
Grass Roots Organiser Rob Cross wrote, “Trevor gave a us a lot of help, enthusiasm and support when we took the balloons to Shuttleworth a few years back. The risk assessment we use today was adopted from his. A sad loss.”
On Sunday a statement from the event organisers stated that “The Shuttleworth Collection can confirm that earlier today an aircraft experienced difficulties and crashed at the airfield. Today’s planned air show has been cancelled to allow accident investigators to assess the scene. We would like to thank both on-site and external emergency crews for their prompt reaction. As a result of the accident the event was immediately cancelled to enable the Air Accidents Investigation Branch to assess the scene and commence its enquiry into the circumstances behind the crash. Our sympathies go out to his family.”
Whose the Mug
The BBM&L Coffee Mug G-RMUG paid us a visit for its annual inspection last Tuesday. The day had been booked and for once the weather was looking promising. The BBAC are redoing the inspector application training procedures and as part of that Dave Such fell victim to the first instalment that of the Special Shape (as opposed to Special-shaped) Inspector rating appointment. Pidley golf-course’s erstwhile David Hopkins kindly lent his trailer and Landrover to transport it down in and Dave duly turned up promply at ten as promised albeit without crew! Suffice to say he inspected the envelope under the watchful eye of John and myself, discovered a couple of RDS pulleys that were hanging on by a thread and pronounced the rest fine. A trip back to the workshop sorted that out where we left him to his computer and the paperwork. Eventually, a few hours later all the paperwork was checked the envelope packed away and he was pronounced, along with the Mug, fit for service. Somewhere else will be a bit of an article on it, soonish.
Slow Slow Quick-Quick Slow
Hot off the tea-trolly is the news, mainly directed at Commercial Ride Operators and pilots, that following an accident in September 2011, where a UK commercial balloon pilot received a serious injury whilst attempting to operate his quick release to take-off in a Group C balloon, the AAIB has completed its investigation and the report is now published its. This, and an accident report of a private balloon pilot who impacted powerlines, may be downloaded from http://www.aaib.gov.uk/sites/aaib/publications/bulletins/june_2012.cfm
This year the CAA has already received a MOR from another AOC holder who encountered quick release failure on the launch-site. On this occasion the failure occurred at the cold inflation stage with no-one being injured and the CAA has requested the operator for the failed item for technical analysis.
As a precaution an edict has been issued advising all AOC (Balloons) holders to undertake an internal audit of their company quick releases and associated ropes and karabiners. Its probably not a bad idea for all pilots to check their tethering and quick release equipment on a regular basis. Some manufacturers include the Quick Release in the Inspection Schedule so if present it should be getting inspected at least once a year. Below are a few pointers from the CAA that may be of help to Commercial pilots.
(i) Is there any sign of wear? If so, seek the advice of an Inspector or the manufacturer. Check what maintenance can be undertaken and by whom?
(ii) Is it an approved quick release for the allocated balloon? Check the Flight Manual.
(iii) Is it correctly rigged with ropes of the correct length for the purpose? Check the Flight Manual.
(iv) Is the system (“W”, “Y”, etc) appropriate to the basket in use? Check the Flight Manual and ask for advice if unsure.
(v) Are the correct attachment points (if fitted) to the basket in use?
(vi) Can the quick release be operated by the pilot without undue difficulty and whilst the pilot’s restraint harness is fitted and worn? Not wearing the pilot’s harness prior to take-off is an instant Base/Line Check fail point and is highly dangerous.
The CAA advise you to take advantage of the bad weather to check this vital piece of equipment and read the AAIB reports. Meanwhile, an established AOC holder is rumoured to be working with a UK balloon manufacturer on matters ‘Quick Release’. and more on this subject can be presently expected in the public domain. Quick Releases are covered in the Inspection of Baskets Guide elsewhere on the site.
When Pete Bish dropped a new burner off with us to pass on to Neil Beckwith knowing he would be over to help with the inspection of the Capital Balloon Club’s Lindstrand LBL77A little account was taken of the weather. Trevor met up with us and globetrotting newsman Steve Bray, just back from the footie, at the Black Horse last week on about the only bike-able day. So that is what he came on. There was some discussion about coming back for the bag another day but as his trip home to Bounds Green (former home of our John) was pretty straightforward involving wide roads he decided that he could get it on his trusty Suzuki missile. After much struggling and bashing it was formed into a tube and tied up with some fetching ripstop off-cuts and similarily tied to the grab handle on the pillion. Admiring the new fabric aerofoil section Neil donned his helmet and set off home! Next challenge a folding basket?
Lucky for some - Atlas Control test day - Friday 13 July 2012
Almost there now, lots of restricted airspace comes into force on Saturday 14th July. Don’t forget and get caught out. As a bit of a warm up and test for Atlas Control, very Olympian name don’t you think, they are going on air on Friday 13th July from 0600 until 1800 so we can all have a go at filing our flight plans. This is actually a great idea and it should be quite interesting to see what happens if it doesn’t all go to plan, nevertheless, take advantage of it if you are in an affected area.
All of the information (for all aviation) on the practice day is at: http://olympics.airspacesafety.com/media/6885/atlas_warm_up.pdf.
The full Olympics airspace guide has also been published online: http://olympics.airspacesafety.com/media/9639/airspace_guide_june_26.pdf
Squadron Leader Sian Ryan, Officer Commanding Atlas Control, has declared that the Atlas Supervisor number 01489 612943 will be manned from 06:00 local until 18:00 local on Friday 13th July 2012.
Balloonists are invited to test the system and phone in with simulated flights in the restricted area R112. This is all the whole area that isn’t Prohibited and, where appropriate, extends up to Controlled Airspace. The purpose is to assist both balloonists and the Atlas Control team to ensure that Atlas are given what info [they feel that] they need, and “iron out” any unforeseen issues that get thrown up, like the forecast wind is 180º out!
The system then goes live at 23:59 on Friday 13th July and the Atlas number will be manned on a 24 hour basis. Further tests of the system may be made once live, but of course prefix your phone call with the fact that you are notifying a simulated flight.
Balloonists, like all aviators, should read the full airspace guide if they plan to operate within R112. However, the following is a summary of expected required information for hot-air balloons and gas balloons, but not for airships:
The commander of the balloon or one person on behalf of a group must have obtained approval for launch from Atlas Control no later than 1 hour before the flight and provide Atlas Control with the following details:
(a) contact telephone number for the pilot;
(b) the balloon registration number;
(c) a general description of its colour scheme;
(d) the intended launch time in UTC;
(e) the intended location of launch in the form of an Ordnance Survey grid reference, Lat and Long, or a range and bearing from a major feature;
(f) the planned duration of flight; and
(g) the estimated landing area.
The balloon must squawk 6600, if able to do so. You’ll soon start squawking if a gunship comes alongside or a missile battery opens up!
Owners and operators are advised to adopt the previous advice of emailing a JPEG photograph of their balloon to the CAA’s Aircraft Registration Section (RegAircraft@caa.co.uk) and asking for it to be added to “G-INFO”. If Atlas actually have a gander at a picture of your balloon then you probably stand a better chance of survival.
Latest Olympic Airspace Updates
As we get nearer the event it is obvious that some technical and operating changes have had to be made by the CAA. Here’s where you can find the latest updates:
OLYMPICS AIRSPACE GUIDE is now at Version 1.1. Published online at
There is also a rake of stuff including flying outside Olympic Airspace 112 in adjacent Class G Airspace, infringement advice and what to do if you are in a glider and escorted out by a Tornado. This can all be found by going to http://olympics.airspacesafety.com/downloads. Strongly advised to keep an eye on this stuff as it may still change.
Information Notice IN-2012/101 London Olympics 2012 Airspace Management - Use of 121.500MHz. This Information Notice outside the use of 121.500MHz by pilots that inadvertently infringe the Olympic 2012 Prohibited and Restricted areas. It includes frequencies as well. They are asking that practice PANS and training fixes using 121.50 be minimized until after the games are over. http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/InformationNotice2012101Web.pdf