Balloon Repair Station

News Update 12.11.15 – UPDATED!!!

The AOC is dead? – Really?

Well this popped up on Facebook yesterday, less the question-mark obviously (we did that), from the European Balloon Federation (EBF), so I am told. ‘To all balloonists: The AOC is dead! this has been announced today by Jan Boettcher, responsible for the Air Ops working Group at EASA. This is quite an achievement and I am really proud of EBF work, particularly of the competence and involvement of Phil Dunnington and Karel Abbenes’. I’m personally not sure a Facebook one or two liner is the way to present information of this potential magnitude but then I’m so not whatever! Such a statement is ill-conceived, un-professional, very badly presented and will cause an awful lot of confusion.

Is this good or bad? Historically, Faceache is a bit Daily Mail when it comes to news flashes so is it best take the notice with a bit of salt? At the moment it clearly depends which country you are in and what the final outcome and agreement will be by April 2018 when the NPAs and discussions and debates and EASAness is all completed, but until then the statement appears rather ambiguous. There is also the undiscussed liklihood of the likely increase in fees and requirements levied on CPL holders (or whatever they are called in 2018) by the respective NAAs (National Aviation Authorities).

Now currently there is a very strong move to get everything to do with balloons stuffed in an EASA folder marked ‘Balloons’ and that is already well underway with a panel of supposed ballooning experts involved, including the European Balloon Federation which we don’t seem to be able to find out much about and, as far as we are aware of, you can’t join if you are a mere mortal and don’t really seem to publish reports on their current policies just a broad statement. Forgetting that for a moment all this ‘under one umbrella’ stuff is expected to be implemented by April 2018 and the AOC, Self Declaration subject will simply be one element of it. The EBF are certainly seemingly dedicated to removing ballooning from the grasp of EASA and, all things considered, this may be broadly, a good thing but do they take a broader view, seek broader representation or be open themselves to debate? Are members of the EBF self-appointed? Is EBF the mouth of ballooning as far as EASA are concerned? Who are the EBF actually representing? Just asking.

We just hope that whatever the outcome of the current EASA and EBF discussions are that at the very least the paying passenger continues to be protected from the rogue dealer or that the NAA of the country involved will still be able to pull the plug on those that transgress. We look forward to seeing an ‘in-depth’ report and explanation from the EBF and something from the BBAC explaining their involvement in the organisation and their stance very soon.

Long and short currently is that until it is formally ratified it won’t become EASA legislation until April 2018 at the earliest. Simply put there will be no change in the current UK regulations until at least then so you can’t just go out and fly passengers without an AOC tomorrow. In the UK (and probably all EASA countries) the current Regulations for those countries probably remain in force.

Update to today’s update 12.11.15.

Joining the EBF – Link to application form
Can’t put this out tomorrow as its Friday the thirteenth and that would be bad. We have been made aware (somewhat) that you can in fact join the European Balloon Federation (EBF) and below is the link to their website which includes the downloadable application form. Checking it out it is dead simple. Fill in the form, sign it stating your ‘quality’, pay 500€ for the privilege and you can join but there is a bit of a caveat. It would appear that you are only eligible to join if you are a representative of a nationwide organisation of balloonists. Bummer, we aren’t and don’t have 500€ (annual?) to buy a vote on their Committee. No worries for the British Balloon and Airship club though as ‘if several national balloonists organisations co-exist in the country then they will share the costs’ and, if we understand correctly, the vote. Seems very Federation to me. In the case of the BBAc, who is paying what to whom and for what? Do the Regions or members have any say in how a vote would go? Puzzling.

On their website they make the proclamation in the ‘Who are we?’ bit that they are,
‘Definitely balloonists from all over Europe, who want to continue practising in a pilot friendly regulations environment. EBF was created in Paris on April 12th, 2014, by the national balloonists organisations of: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Nederland, Switzerland, UK.’ Nice spirit but who are these balloonists from all over Europe? Only a question.

This does seem a bit of a bum deal to me but then we don’t get to see the bigger picture and whilst I’m sure the EBF’s intentions are good they do not appear to be either a very open body nor speak simple English as demonstrated on their website. ‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ maybe but I’m only asking like so I can understand the bigger picture. Come on EBF at least put up some mug-shots of your Committee along with who they are, what their qualifications are and what they actually do. Thing is that I now reckon, if I understand correctly, that the EBF are the representatives appointed by the clubs and associations in all the European countries they mention including the UK to voice our concerns. Truth and problem with that is that many EASAland countries don’t have national ballooning bodies or clubs to which the majority of balloonists in that country are members of and on top of that how many Italians, for example, are members of whatever the national Italian Ballooning Club is? That is an awful lot of countries and balloonists unrepresented by the EBF. Then again how closely are they working with the National Aviation Authorities (NAA)? Do they have their ears and support or do the NAAs need EBF’s support? I don’t know. Just asking.

Now before you think we are being facetious-like I think the ballooning community, whether members of a national organisation or not, might just want to know who to write to and contact in the EBF so their views can be considered. Grudgingly I have to say that even EASA do that using NPAs. You don’t have to be in any organisation to submit a response to an NPA. Stock answer will no doubt be that if you balloon you should join the National body as one big voice is better than lots of little ones. Fair enough but you don’t have to be a member of a political party to see your MP or vote.

Be assured this isn’t devilment for the sake of it. We would just like to know EBF’s credentials and how the lowly balloonist can make their voice heard or enter into discussions with them if it differs from their beliefs. Silly me. Its just been pointed out that this is democracy. As a UK balloonist we elect members of the BBAC Committee and we trust them to act on our behalf. Simple. Mind you, on the other hand why not evolve the EBF into a proper European body of balloonists by allowing balloonists to join and get themselves voted onto Committee type stuff. What am I thinking! Slap me with a bit of 4×2 (100x 50) please. That’s better, jolly good, thankyou. (o: scroll to the end to download the membership form. will take you straight to the form if we’ve got it right!