The two British Gas Flames G-BGOO and G-BLKU have been inflated together again for the first time in a very long time! G-BGOO was last seen at Bristol where it was inflated as part of the Bristol Fiesta but G-BLKU was deemed beyond saving so has languished in its bag stored with the BBM&L at Pidley ever since it was retired. As a get-together for Joe Philp, who used to fly the British Gas balloons, had been planned as an 86th birthday present for him it was decided that they really ought to be dragged out. The story of their rejuvenation and Joe’s Day are elsewhere but both envelopes were successfully inflated on November 11th at The Chase Hotel, Ross-on-Wye. Big thanks to the British Balloon Museum & Library for making them available.
Gordon Bennett Heroes
Chris Wood and John Rose’s valiant attempt in this years Gordon Bennett Race will be the subject of the next London Region Balloon Club Meeting to be held on Wednesday 28th November at The Sekforde Arms, 34 Sekforde Street, London, EC1R 0HA. Chris Wood will give a talk on their epic journey with some insights of the preparation, planning and eventual decision to land. Meetings start around half seven.
Congested Area Take-Off Permission revised – great news
To fly from Congested Areas you need a Permission and have to abide by the requirements of the CAA. One good reason for being a member of the British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) was that they applied and paid for a Congested Area Take-Off Permission on an annual basis that covered all their members. Previously the annual Permission used to be an annual Exemption but was changed when Rule 5 of the Rules of the Air Regulations was revised. This was only valid for BBAC members and replaced the need for any AOC holder, aerial work operator or individual balloon pilot to apply and pay for an individual Exemption for each and every congested area launch-site that they wished to operate from.
In recent years the British Association of Balloon Operators (BABO) has also applied and paid for a similar annual Permission. The CAA considered that it was unacceptable for a pilot who was both a member of the BBAC and was flying for an AOC holder who was a member of BABO to be able to elect (perhaps retrospectively) which of the Permissions he was using for any particular take-off. Therefore, the BABO Permission was worded so that it was only valid for BABO members who were not BBAC members.
This left a number of pilots who were not BABO members nor BBAC not being able to benefit from the Permission without applying as an individual. Having been approached by a number of pilots that fell into that category we enquired about the possibility of having a Permission that covered our customers that were not in the BBAC or BABO. After some discussion it soon became apparent that three alternative Permissions would become unworkable so the CAA decided to undertake a review of balloon Permissions & Exemptions and while they were at it to additionally include the annual Permission that the BBAC Competitions Club has applied and paid for in order to drop Competition Markers, and the dropping of human ashes from balloons.
Following the review, CAA has decided to re-issue the Congested Area Take-Off Permission as a single General Permission. This will no longer be valid for a specific group and no application fee will be required which is great news. The General Permission, when published, will be placed within the Official Records Series (ORS4). Any pilot wishing to use the Permission will still have to carry a copy of the current version and ensure that they are both able to and will comply with all of the conditions. Once the General Permission is issued, the existing individual Permissions (for BBAC and BABO) will be revoked. ORS4 can be found at www.caa.co.uk/ors4.
With regard to the dropping of Competition Markers, the CAA has decided to retain this as an annual Permission, as is the case with all other requests from General Aviation for Permissions to drop articles, however the CAA will review the conditions of this Permission with the BBAC Competitions Club when they next apply to renew, should they so request.
With regard to the dropping of human ashes from balloons, the CAA has become aware of occasions where such activity may have taken place without a Permission having been applied for. Pilots are therefore reminded their that they cannot drop anything (other than as detailed in Article 129 of the ANO) without a CAA Permission. The application form may be found at www.caa.co.uk/srg1304 and the CAA payment form is at www.caa.co.uk/srg1305 although there is currently no charge for an application to drop human ashes. Ashes dropping Permissions are valid for 3 months. If circumstances prevent the flight from taking place within the Permission validity period, pilots must apply for an extension, which will normally be agreed in writing. The dropping of articles without a valid Permission is a potential breach of the ANO and could be subject to CAA regulatory investigation.
Fame for Ruby
One used to say ‘famous for five minutes’ but now fame is if you get on YouBend or Wikiwotnots. Well our Ruby has just done that. Type in ‘Cross Country horse’ scroll down and blow me down there she is ‘a thunderin across the finish line with our Mary aboard fetlocks flying. Despite the fame Mary is a bit miffed about the description under the picture ‘At the lower levels, horses of all breeds, sizes, and types can compete’ and the ‘Child on horseback’ title of the picture. Mind you it is under ‘Ideal cross-country mount’ so that’ll do. Hey ho the price of fame. Here’s the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-country_equestrianism. Great picture.
Dartmoor Danger Area Revised
Danger Area D011 has been sub-divided into three areas appropriately called D011A, B and C. D011 is one of the areas where entry is restricted by by-law. The new areas will now mean that large amounts of airspace over Dartmoor will be made available even though parts will remain active. Day to day requirements and the status of the areas will be notified by NOTAM. NOTAMS are available free of charge from the National Air Traffic Services website at www.ais.org.uk/. Registration (free) is required.
BBM&L 2013 Calendar launched
Pay back time for the loan of the envelopes as we report that the BBM&L have released a calendar for 2013 featuring the Inflation Day antics back in May. A calendar for 2013 had not been planned Thanks to a very generous donation, the Calendar is selling for only £3.00 plus £1.50 post and packaging. If you or your balloon was at the event you are probably in it. You can order it through the BBM&L Shop on their website at http://www.bbml.org.uk. We are assured that it is the perfect Christmas present for all balloonists.
Bottoms Up – Sackville bottom end flying to start in February
Tim Wilkinson’s scheme to get the cost of ballooning down and encourage more people to take up the sport is set to be launched in February 2013. Tim told us that there has been a great deal of interest in the scheme already from new and retired balloonists so it is going to go live early next year.
Tim explained, “In short you bring your own envelope, fly it on one of the groups complete bottom ends. The advantages are reduction in cost, plenty of others to help, experienced pilots to learn from, no storage problems, insurance included, gas on site, join in the fun”. He went on, “The hope is to hold on to existing balloonists who would otherwise leave the sport, encourage new balloonists by group encouragement with enthusiastic new members wanting to learn. This approach is already proven in other sports to benefit all. The idea is now well underway and the scheme will start in February. I have three complete bottoms ends. Peter Dowlen of Bennetts Insurance has given me a workable affordable way forward and their policy will cope with changes. Chris Dunkley has worked on the idea and also shown me a practical way of working the scheme. So what is it?
The flying group. Members have their own envelope(s) from sizes 65-120 and Chris will complete the paper work to match all envelopes to the three bottom ends. As a group member that is your part of it. The rest is the scheme organiser’s problem. The Costs. £600-oo per year per envelope. Included in this is 12 months insurance of your envelope, pilot plus up to three passengers, the use of any of the three bottom ends as each have been matched to your envelope (providing they are compatible). Having three bottoms ends should be able to cope with a reasonable size group. Everyone will have good access and should anyone wish to take away a bottom end there will still be two others to use. Additionally there will be access to a spare envelope should any member damage their own. This envelope will also be available to new PUT’S to help get them started however there will be an extra hourly charge for this. As with most insurance schemes there is a small excess for any accident to help reduce the cost.
The advantages are cost, a big reduction against a privately owned complete kit. You only have to store and look after your own envelope and even that can be left here if you want to. Bottom end including trailer not your problem. As a group you have many others to help retrieve and train and join in. The gas tanks will be full and ready to use then filled after and charged against your account. Simple.
Like all new schemes the fine detail will need minor changes in light of experience but this is a new way to hopefully encourage more people to enjoy ballooning at an affordable price. If you want to join in at Sackville please call for more details. If you want to expand this idea in your region or add to my scheme in your region please call. As we gain experience I will post progress. So call me for more details, join the scheme, we are here to help and with luck have many new members enjoying this wonderful sport. All welcome from experienced retired balloonists to the new people wanting to learn. All best everyone. Tim Wilkinson email; Sackville@avnet.co.uk. Mobile Tel 07774 291283.
AOC balloon use reminder
The CAA has issued a reminder to all AOC holders that any balloon that is listed in the company Operations Manual must be operated in accordance with the AOC conditions. This means that should a balloon that is listed in the company Operations Manual be required to be operated outside the AOC Area(s) of Operation, irrespective as to the purpose of a particular flight, the CAA should be contacted (in writing) prior to the balloon leaving the UK. The AOC Area(s) of Operation is detailed within the AOC Ops Spec, which forms part of the AOC itself.
The reminder is issued as some operators may be considering taking an AOC listed balloon to winter balloon events in Europe. Even if it not intended to use it for the carriage of passengers if the balloon is in an AOC then the CAA must be informed.
EASA Licensing – farewell Purple Passport
Fresh from the CAA comes the latest disaster movie concerning the new EASA licences due to arrive in 2015. As reported previously some will already be aware that the UK CAA Licensing & Training Standards Department (L&TS) has changed the format of national (UK) licences following the UK implementation of EASA Part-FCL (Flight Crew Licensing to the uninitiated). Both the CAA L&TS and the BBAC have already promulgated some detailed guidance regarding Part-FCL balloon licences and medical requirements, and the message from a CAA senior manager in the L&TS is “We’re hoping there won’t be any rush from balloonists to convert to Part-FCL licences (since the derogation runs until April 2015)”.
The CAA doesn’t really want balloonists to all wait until March 2015 to convert their licences since, even with expanded staffing, L&TS couldn’t cope with demand and balloon pilots would find themselves without a valid licence for a period of time. Therefore, it is realistic to expect most Part-FCL balloon licence conversions to occur during 2014 and early 2015. Prior to that period, up to 7 April 2015, many existing UK national balloon licences will need to be re-issued and new UK national balloon licences initially issued. As candidates are still training towards a UK PPL(BA) and a UK CPL(B) there could be a slight increase in numbers in the short term. In that period re-issues will occur due to the 10-year expiry of UK CPL(B)s, additional ratings and classes, changes of address or name, lost licences, etc.
All of these newly issued licences will appear in a new, smaller format. All of a pilot’s valid aviation licences will appear on a single piece of A4 paper, with all valid items (ratings, classes, etc) being detailed on the front side. On the rear side will be previously held, but expired ratings. Following re-validation of any expired rating, the entire licence will need to be re-issued by the CAA (thus attracting a further fee), with the rating being restored or added to the front side of the licence. All UK CAA flying licences will now have a smaller, dark blue licence holder, rather than the familiar purple one for ballooning.