Balloon Repair Station

How ‘Light’ will it get? – Are EASA’s promises all mouth and no trousers?

2 hopperYes, probably. We regularly bang on and post up stuff from EASA’s deep, deep pit of the inevitable along with the promises of Patrick Ky, its captain, but, and it probably is a big but, they are now making noises about relaxing the nonsense they had previously thought was good for General Aviation. Having brought in extremely unpopular legislation they are pretending that they are actually now the goodies and overturning it. Unbelievable. They created the mess in the first place. This is all very obviously a large spoonful of sweet PR (for the foreseeable) which the vast majority see straight through but sadly the promises and assurances are, more often than not, pure fantasy on EASA’s part. I hate to say it but we probably have more politicians whose word is more trustworthy and whose aims are more honourable, just. EASA are, however you look at it, a well overpaid Organisation created by the European Government and, although I’m sure there are one or two lurking in non-existent corridors behind labeled doors that don’t really exist that are actually aviation friendly, most appear to us mere enthusiasts as political pawns controlled by an elite operating in a secret world and, in the end, who we are unable to influence. Attacking this malaise many are, not least our Civil Aviation Authority along with representatives from all the private aviation disciplines. Their success is limited and usually frustrated at every hurdle. As for ballooning in the UK, to bang a loud gong, we are extremely fortunate to have some very dedicated and committed stalwarts including some absolutely marvelous people within our own CAA although, of course, its hard to admit!

4 lighter inspectionMaybe in postponing the downfall of General Aviation EASA have, possibly maybe, finally realised they are killing an industry that indirectly pays them the dues that they need to survive, or maybe they are just treading water and hoping we’ll all go quietly away? You may think that when we put out notices that come on a daily basis about matters EASA want feedback on that we are joking. We are not. I do freely admit that it seems to me that with the best will in the world EASA have already made their ‘Decision’ and whatever we write or try and put forward is largely ignored or valueless. Truth is that most of it is. It is only now during the ceasefire that we can make any difference. The likes of Dave Court, Don Cameron, Phil Dunnington and (dare I say it) Paul Spellward have all taken time to venture over the Channel on regular occasions to fight the foe. With respect to the CAA Ian Chadwick and Mark Shortman plus those at much higher levels have all chucked their tenpennies worth into the arena and battle the corner of the General Aviator.

It really doesn’t make any difference which bit of General Aviation you are in the need to explain and win back the freedom we have to sail the skies is a real challenge and faces a real threat. Just because the inevitable EASA foot has postponed Armageddon until 2017, or maybe, possibly, 2018, 3 light asdoesn’t mean we can relax. If they deem nothing better is proposed or put forward they will, and make no mistake, impose their will. Are they hoping we do just that? Are they making it any easier to access or respond to proposed legislation? Not really. Do they still shrug their shoulders and smirk when asked a reasonable, simple to answer question? Mainly. I recently communicated with a distant (as in probably the Punjab or the Easter Islands) Phil Dunnington who explained reasonably and quietly that ‘It's good if 'stakeholders' send in their views. Of course it's all the more effective if they echo the BBAC Manifesto stuff.' On the subject of trying to change legislation he introduced a rather poignant phrase which is really appropriate to the current EASA bollix that some stuff we want changed is clearly ‘not within the 'art of the possible', I'm afraid.' This is the thing then. We have to look at what is truly feasible and concentrate on that. EASA policy is to distract. Thin out your attack too much and a stalemate is bound to ensue. Concentrate on the possible or the aspects that will truly stuff General Aviation. Generally speaking I think the British Balloon & Airship club’s Manifesto is well set out and appropriate however some of it is clearly straying towards the ‘not within the art’ area. If we are to get changes then we all have to put our boot in otherwise, come the end of the ceasefire, nothing will change and we will be stuck with Europe-wide Training Organisations and no way to fly your home-built registered in the UK in long-legged Italy. Those that have been voted into place, or re-elected if you prefer, and serve ballooning through the BBAC need to be more vocal and not just depend on those that currently do. There are plenty of Committee members who have never written a 5 lighter stuffparagraph for the Aerostat or Pilot’s Circular which means we have no idea where their ideals or support lays. So, before I go into total meltdown and drink me way through a second bottle of Macon Villages where the balloonists do their own thing and farmers block roads in protest at the merest hint of change despite, or inspite, of EASA, here is the stuff that is current and you need to digest. You may or may not agree with all of it (or even some of it) but any proposals, responses or actions need to be made by next year as 2017 is not very far away.

Phil Dunnington recently wrote, ‘We (BBAC) are actively working on all the elements of the regulations as they affect balloons and attending meetings on Working Groups in Cologne which take place about twice a month at present. All the regulations due to come into force in April 2017 (Part OPS etc) are now likely to be deferred along with Part FCL to April 2018 as they are closely inter-related. We are going through all sections with a view to simplification/elimination where possible and this process is likely to take about a year from now. I do not know right now what elements will ultimately be affected. BBAC policy with reference to EASA remains as per the recently-published Manifesto, so if you follow that you will be 'singing from the same hymn sheet'.’

Don Cameron and Paul Spellward stormed the last Part M (light), which is the way that Continued Airworthiness and Inspector-type stuff is to be regulated by EASA, in Rome and Don wrote the following report which does rather show the reality of the situation. Now whereas some of it is rather more hopeful rather than possible it does demonstrate the commitment of the BBAC in this area. Other Organisations were there and all seem to have reacted in a similar way which is reassuring but this is only the UK view and other European Countries have very different agendas.

Following on from that is the British Balloon and Airship Club’s Manifesto and no apologies for introducing another manifesto when we are flooded with the nonsense of our own politicians as they vie for power ahead of the General Election. I haven’t seen any discussions on EASA or the powers they hold in the Richard Dimbleby debates?

Visit to EASA 17th/18th March 2015 - Part M Light (So called)
Following the conference in Rome in October 2014, Patrick Ky has, as he promised, taken action to reduce the enormous burden which the new maintenance regulations (Part M) have placed on all general aviation and sport aviation in particular.

The problem has been that Part M was designed to follow airliner practice and was imposed without very much careful thought on the smaller end of aviation. The result was a bureaucratic nightmare and it was worst of all for balloons, because balloons do not resemble airliners in any way.

The call in Rome was for rapid action, and things are moving rapidly (at least on the EASA definition of the term). A draft of Part M Light has been developed without ballooning involvement, but this meeting was held by Mr Juan Anton of EASA to compensate. Ballooning was represented by Paul Spellward (European Balloon Federation) Petr Kubicek (Balony Kubicek) and myself (Cameron Balloons). There were other representatives from gliding and helicopters and representatives from some national authorities including Austria and UK (Alan Carter).

The general impression is that EASA, as represented by Juan Anton, are genuinely willing to simplify Part M to make life easier for us, but there is such a deeply ingrained airliner mindset that it is difficult for them to do so. In addition to this, EASA is constrained by the EU basic regulations which mean that not every change is open to them. As the discussion progressed, Mr. Anton edited the draft on the screen in front of us to incorporate the decisions. This process will go on until it goes for formal consultation by the NPA. He has circulated the latest draft, now at 52 pages.

Many subjects were discussed over the two days. I made the point that it is sufficient for balloons, or at least for small sporting balloons, to have the option of not maintaining a CofA. I realised that this was not something that anyone had considered, but suggested it might be justified if a sufficiently sized field experiment could be conducted. I then pointed out that it has been conducted already; that was the UK practice for more than forty years, during which time there was not one single accident that would have been prevented by the imposition of Part M.
Despite the impeccable logic of this argument, I felt like the invisible man. The idea of not controlling something and leaving it to the common sense of the practitioners is so foreign to their mindset, that they could not even consider it. The discussion moved on.

Paul Spellward and I did not collude; we even sat apart – perhaps a good cop / bad cop sort of game, but in the event I suppose we were both bad cops! Paul put forward the proposals of the EBF; I represented the manufacturer’s viewpoint, but we differed little. He proposed removal of the need for a maintenance programme for balloons. This is a bureaucratic document which goes on for many pages, but says little more than follow the manufacturer’s maintenance manual. Apparently this is not possible, but some concessions are available in the draft Part M Light. The owner will be able to approve the Maintenance Programme and Paul will be refining an example into a one-page standard document which can be the same for every balloon. It will still do little more than reference the manual.

On the second day I sat silently through a long discussion of where the responsibility would lie if an owner chose to approve a maintenance programme following CAMO advice and who would have to sign it etc. After 20 minutes of this stuff I said that I felt I was listening to a fantasy. We managed just fine without a maintenance program, and our proposal for a standardised one which says little is what we hope to do. There is a possibility that an owner could prefer not to follow the manufacturer’s manual, so that has been covered by Part ML specifying a minimum inspection schedule for balloons. This includes inspection of the “alternate ignition source” so it would be a mistake to turn up for the inspection without a box of matches!

The second EBF proposal was to remove the need for an ARC for balloons. Again this was not possible, but some concessions were offered. The ARC can be done by the same person and at the same time as the annual inspection (we are actually doing that now, probably due to a generous interpretation by our CAA). The ARC and the Certificate of Release to Service (CRS) cannot be made into one document, because the CRS can be designed by the maintenance organisation (MO) whereas the ARC is an EASA prescribed format.

There was puzzlement about the balloonists’ ability to use an envelope from one manufacturer and burner, basket and fuel tanks, perhaps all of different makes. This is quite unfamiliar in the world of aeroplanes. By tradition and law, the envelope carries the registration and identity. We explained the British system in which an optional basket can be added to a balloon’s log book, but on the second day it was said that for temporary use of a borrowed basket it would be enough for the pilot or owner to take the responsibility of making sure that the borrowed item is (a) an approved combination and (b) in date for its annual or 100 hour inspection.

But, of course, the whole thing remains a crazy nightmare. All that is needed is to insert at the beginning “For balloons, see paragraph XXX” and then in paragraph XXX insert text as follows:
“Balloon owners may choose to maintain a Certificate of Airworthiness, except that those carrying more than two fare-paying passengers must do so.

A Certificate of Airworthiness is non-expiring, but, to maintain its validity, the balloon must pass an inspection by an inspector appointed by an approved manufacturer, an approved balloon repair facility or an approved balloon federation. The inspection must be carried out to the standard laid down in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or another approved maintenance schedule. The result of the inspection and any maintenance performed must be entered in the balloon log book.”
That is all that is needed – it is as simple as that. Don Cameron

BBAC Manifesto for Ballooning Regulation 2015
The British Balloon & Airship Club (BBAC) have published details of their objectives in helping EASA to achieve its publicly stated objective of "Simpler, Lighter and Better rules for General Aviation" The principal policy objectives of the BBAC in the coming (2015-2017) process of EASA rules overhaul and reduction are set out below. For further details contact HYPERLINK "mailto:EASA@bbac.org" EASA@bbac.org.

Part M: Airworthiness Revue Certificates - Removal of requirement for ARCs for balloons. ARCs add significant bureaucracy and costs and have no safety value. They should be abolished for balloons. The Airworthiness Review should be incorporated in the annual inspection without separate documentation (as was the case before Part M). The Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) should be non-expiring, revalidated by a single combined annual Inspection and Airworthiness Review document. There should be no requirement to "notify" the National Aviation Authority (NAA) and no NAA charges associated with CofA revalidation.

Part M: Maintenance Programmes - Removal of requirement for Maintenance Programmes for balloons. The Part M Maintenance Programmes are unnecessary bureaucracy which add no value and merely call up the Manufacturer's Maintenance Manual. They should be abolished for balloons.

Part M: (Annex II) - Continuation of National arrangements for Annex II balloons with pan-EASA recognition. Annex II balloons should continue as now for non-EASA balloons, but with the addition of EASA-wide recognition enabling Annex II balloons to be flown in all EASA states. In order to stimulate and support development of new technologies and techniques the BBAC would also like to establish a regime for one-person EASA (series) balloons to be able to opt in and out of Annex II.

Part M: Inspectors - No move to Part 66 licences for balloon inspectors. Current National arrangements where inspectors may be trained, qualified and maintained by suitable Organisations under delegation from NAA are fit for purpose and should be incorporated without modification.

Part FCL: Medicals - The Balloon Pilot Licence (BPL) medical requirement should be no higher than the current PPL requirement. There is no basis in case history to have any requirement for a medical for a balloon pilot. Part FCL proposes a huge increase in costs and bureaucracy with EASA Class 2 medicals. Whilst we would like to see abolition of medicals for balloon pilots, a realistic objective is to allow NAAs to determine AMCs considering national medical arrangements, for example in the UK the ability of a single doctor ("General Practitioner") to access the full medical history. In the UK, we would want to retain the current GP endorsement of self-certification to the HGV Driving standards. This is a well-defined pan-European standard and we would commend it to other EASA states as an acceptable medical standard for balloon pilots.

Part FCL: LAPL(B) - The LAPL(B) will not be needed provided the medical standard for the BPL is adjusted downwards as proposed. The LAPL(B) was conceived to cover pilots who could not gain an EASA Class 2 medical or who wanted to avoid the higher costs of maintaining the EASA Class 2. If EASA Class 2 is not required for BPL, then all balloon pilots can use BPL with obvious benefits in simplification with the non-implementation of the LAPL(B).

Part FCL: ATO - Training for the Part FCL balloon licence(s) should not require an ATO. Depending on local NAA application, forming and operating an ATO is very burdensome and costly. There is no need for an ATO and training should continue under national arrangements as for last 40 plus years.

Part FCL: Instructors - Any licensed balloon pilot should be able to provide training for the Part FCL licence(s). The proposed Part FCL requirement for "instructor only" training should be abolished. Training hours with any licensed pilot should count towards the minimum required hours total for the Part FCL licence(s).

Part FCL: Instructors - No separate rating ‘TK instructor’. There is no need for the additional bureaucracy of qualifying and maintaining "Theoretical Knowledge" instructors. There should be no restriction of persons providing teaching for "theoretical knowledge", whether a pilot or not.

Part FCL: Training - Some technical errors / unintended consequences to be re-worked. To include: alleviation of the requirement that examiners may not examine a student with whom they have done more than 25% of the training; corrections to unintended consequences on recency requirements for larger balloon groups; other (BBAC can advise) Part CAT Ballooning should not in any form be under Commercial Air Transport Balloon. "Rides" are not at all like fixed wing commercial air transport and should not be covered under fixed wing CAT rules. Removal of ballooning from CAT also solves the "Age 70" issue.

Part OPS: Abolition of "Age 70" limit for commercial balloon pilots doing CAT. Eligibility for CAT flying should be based entirely on medical fitness, with no arbitrary age limits, which also contravenes age-discrimination and human rights legislation.

Part OPS: No requirements for Air Operations Certification for aerial work / advertising balloons. Arrangements for oversight of balloon rides companies, outside CAT, should be subject to National rules. There should be no requirement whatsoever for oversight of companies or individuals operating a balloon for aerial work / advertising.

1 lightweight shapeSo what is the feeling here? Frustration at the bollix created by EASA since it came to power? The inaccessabilty to actually discussing anything with those that are in their pay? The way that decisions and rulings are made despite many of the objections or practical solutions that are put forward are ignored? The drive from a few countries that perceive themselves to be the leaders of the EASA movement? Or maybe it is the complete frustration that we are being taken for muppets when our form of aviation only involves getting hot and going and cold and coming down. Please Herr EASAman, we really don’t need your oversight. People that think that they are important seldom survive but whilst they have an influence they are a real pain in the neck.

To join the BBAC go to http://www.bbac.org/shop/Item/membership. You don’t have to be pilot. The European Balloon Federation can be found at the rather puzzling and hard to find address at http://clients.cayzac.info/ebf/. Your support and action is important and needed if we are to keep ballooning simple and affordable.

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