Following the first balloon related “incident” (resolved) and, although the balloon did not penetrate P111, Atlas Control have taken to opportunity to revise their requirements slightly. The CAA have now issued the following guidance notes which all pilots are advised to take full note of.
1. In line with all the previous guidance, all balloon flights in R112 must of course be notified to ATLAS Control, and approved before flight using the listed procedures. If the details change, you must contact Atlas Control and advise them of this change. This can be done from the field by telephone or in flight by radio. So, if you have notified a flight from 19:00 to 20:00 and you are still flying at 20:30, you must have told them this. To make things a bit simpler, when declaring your proposed flight, tell them something along the lines of, “flight will depart between 18:00 and 20:00, for approximately 1 hour. Latest landing will be 30 minutes after sunset”.
2. All flights must be closed upon completion, or if they are cancelled on the launch field. You have effectively lodged a Flight Plan which will remain ‘open’ until you close it. Simply telephone Atlas Control again immediately after making the decision or after making the balloon safe on landing. DO NOT FORGET.
3. The “incident” did not penetrate P111. However, if a future safe balloon landing cannot be achieved before penetration of any of the prohibited areas, DECLARE A PAN and land in a safe location then be prepared to complete a lot of post flight paperwork.
4. Following the incident, CAA DAP have been asked to advise military helicopters not to hover too close to balloons in flight! The military will be briefed on the associated dangers.
5. Balloon pilots who have been the subject of interception will subsequently be dealing with the Head of the CAA’s Aviation Regulation and Enforcement Branch (ARE). The Head of ARE will advise whether individual licences are being suspended or not, and a quick decision on if and how the CAA will proceed will be advised.
6. Atlas Control are today reviewing whether to allocate every requested balloon flight with a R112 clearance number. If they decide so to do, note this number (which will be unique to each flight) and quote it in all correspondence.
The Atlas Control number is 01489 612943 and is manned on 24 hours. 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.