Balloon Repair Station

Austerity –My least favourite word- by Steve Roake

1 mrs sew sewLet’s face it, we are at the end of the year and a time when we reflect on what the year has produced. “Austerity” has a lot to answer for. Everyone blames not doing stuff on the word, I really hate it, it “grinds my tits”! I even went as far as looking up the dictionary definition of the word because it sums up government measures to cap budgets, be fiscally challenged and make general spending reductions.

Truth is this isn’t so. How can I say that? Well here is the truth. If you make a decent product, produce it to a high quality standard and price it according to what the market can stand, it will sell. In recessionary times, yes most of us cut back on what we spend frivolously, but those with savings or wealth don’t get affected by the trait and get better bargains for their money. Canny buyers will use the opportunity to get the best possible price for something they already wanted.

Take ballooning as your example, in recessionary times most people will fly less hours per year or be more efficient on the way they spend their hard earned money when using it on flying activities. I put myself more in the latter bracket, having flown a very reasonable 20 hours in 2015, but with the difference being that instead of looking at flying from home every weekend the weather looked okay, I would target events away where I would fly intensively over a Friday pm to Sunday am period and maximising on the opportunity whilst spending a weekend away. I would call that savvy or pragmatic rather than blame it on the “A” word.

If you then look into the world of cloudhoppers specifically, you realise that actually in our sector of the marketplace, shoots of recovery are everywhere and the word Austerity has no place. Sure there are people getting out of ballooning and selling kit but this is more than matched by progress in the new product market. Without any official figures I can tell you that in the UK alone, there has been at least 5 new purchased hoppers built in 2015(ok one lives in Belgium – but it is registered here). One homebuilt hopper supplemented these and to my knowledge at least two good used examples got snapped up recently. None of these were by accident, so let’s look at the reasons why.

2 G-CIJJ O-31 hopperFour of the five new builds were the Cameron “Super-light” O-31’s which weighing in at a class winning 30kgs in the bag speaks for itself. Coupled to a very competitive price of around £7,700 plus vat there is no shortage of interest in these craft and if you have flown it (as I have), you wont be disappointed with what you are getting for your money. This represents a major turn around in the marketplace for Cameron Balloons, as their previous products in this sector were more expensive, heavy and not particularly popular over the last few years. The O-31 has reignited the sales of hoppers in Bristol and looks set to remain popular whilst it has an apparent lack of competition.

The other new built hopper was from Ultramagic. The H series of hoppers is established and once again offers reasonable value for money. The latest one on the UK market G-CIOV is in fact their fourteenth version of this popular model, with also G-CISJ returning to the UK in second hand guise.

Much spoken about have been the exploits of Tim Wilkinson with his Sackville Balloons, building no less than five this year, one in conjunction with another person but his hopper G-CISD shows another way to enter the world of ballooning whilst restraining the strings of the budget. This in no way reflects on what is a quality machine but at approximately half the price of a Cameron balloon, if you have the desire to build your own, under Annex 2 classification, where there is a will – there most definitely is a way. Demand still outstrips supply where second hand craft are concerned, and in G-OBAB and G-CISJ we have two examples of good fantastic condition craft snapped up instantly at the right price. It seems that if you have the money you have to pay what the advertised price is to ensure you don’t miss out on a future bargain.

There is one other factor not yet influencing the marketplace namely Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. The manufacturer used to be fairly active in the hopper market in years past and whilst it hasn’t indicated any desire to produce hopper sized envelopes (with the current range starting from 70,000 cubic feet and upwards), they haven’t ruled out subject to demand re-entering this sector and I for one will watch this space keenly.

Summing up the marketplace at Christmas 2015, those that have money probably always will, those who have3-Sackville 31 a desire for something specific will invariably find a way to make it happen, and those who produce goods to a standard fit for the market will always find buyers subject to the right pricing of the product.

Austerity – isn’t an excuse for not doing something. It is a way of slowing things down, but please let’s get off the subject and put that word where it needs to be …In the trash can once and for all.

Steve Roake

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