Balloon Repair Station

News 27.07.2020

Graham Hallett
It is with deep sadness that we heard Graham Hallett, really good friend and former Technical Officer for the British Balloon & Airship Club, after a very hard fought battle with cancer, passed peacefully away at home on 27th July 2020. Well known to balloonists here and overseas Graham retired from the position of BBAC TO, that he took over from Wyn Morgan, last year. He served the club throughout the introduction of EASA ensuring the transition was carried out smoothly and without fuss. Despite running the office and the BBAC CAMO he always had time to help the inspectors, offer advice or get to the bottom of the inevitable problems associated with airworthiness matters. Graham’s involvement in ballooning goes back to the days of Tony Patey and Thermal Aircraft when he and Frampo rented a workshop space firstly in Weller Street and later in Lant Street where amazing things were developed and manufactured by SNS Medical Engineering and as a by-product Graham became a specialist in the ISO quality system advising others on how to meet the high standards required. One of his main roles was supporting and crewing for his better half, Lindsay in her competition flying becoming a well known face at many national and international balloon competitions. He was a very good friend, who I have been privileged to have known for many years, very clever and a kind chap who will be very much missed by all that knew him. Our deepest condolences go out to Lindsay and their daughter Chloe along with all his friends and family.

COVID and workshop re-opening
We are planning to re-open on Tuesday 4th August. Opening times will be from about 10.30am until 17.00pm. Social distancing must to be respected please. If your visit is for an inspection then please ensure you bring help to pack away the envelope as we will not be doing that although we are happy to load and unload with the forklift. We will be using some fields just down the by-pass, a much shorter distance than to the Black Horse, which remains closed, if the weather permits it. We will complete logbooks if we can but at the moment all the office stuff is at home so we may have to post it back ‘Signed For’. We are currently booked for inspections until 26th August but our other inspectors are available by arrangement. Repairs and cylinder testing will largely involve dropping off and collecting. Hopefully things will continue to improve especially once our Pete’s treatment programme finishes but during the week of Chemo only John will be about. If the repairs are urgent please call or email. Please see our COVID-19 procedures guide for more information. Thankyou.

Kubicek-TCDS sorted
Balony Kubicek have followed Cameron’s example when they went through the legacy balloons and lobbed them all together under on one Type Certificate Data Sheet but in bigger, braver way. Formally they had five TCDSs but now, bless them they are all in one lovely number BA.003 iss44. BA.001, BA.002, BA.004 and special shapes BA.017 are sadly no more. BA.003 also covers Aerotechknic. Having looked at it I think it will take a bit of getting used to. Not recommended late night reading.

Ride Operators Covid requirements eased (a bit)
Steve Richards of the Commercial Balloon Association has been working hard for months to see what could be done to ease the situation for the Commercial Balloon Ride Operators. In the latest news from the CAA it does appear that there is some new relaxation in the requirements of private and commercial aviation in general which may allow ride operators to carry out more flights. The new guidelines can be found in the Department for Transports’ guidance note ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): General Aviation’ which was updated on 24 July 2020. The guidelines do appear to ease the situation but remain, like a lot of the advice, requirements and legislation, to be confusing in places. For example the paragraph ‘Large Gatherings’ states that, ‘You should take measures to ensure social distancing wherever possible. Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than: two households if indoors and up to 6 people from different households if outdoors. A support bubble counts as one household. It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes, including gardens and other outdoor spaces. Businesses and venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines (for example commercial balloon operators) can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies. They must take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment’. Open to interpretation then. What is clear is that face coverings must be worn as is the situation in airports and on aircraft. Some ride operators have returned to flying exclusive flights for two and they seem to be going well but whether we see a return to large ride balloons trucking through the skies this season is very debateable. Those we have spoken to have very mixed feelings about flying more than a couple of passengers, even if they can follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines. Interestingly one of the points made in the paper, if you cannot keep two metre distancing, is to keep the activity time involved as short as possible. Which is tricky if you are offering an hours flight. There are also huge cost implications for ride operators in re-starting towards the end of the season, such as insuring the balloon and retrieve vehicles for what will be a short season, ensuring grounded balloons are made airworthy and whether crews are willing to return to work in the present climate especially if they or the pilots are furloughed and paid per flight. All the operators are extending vouchers so booked flights won’t be lost. Next season could be very busy indeed. If you have a flight booked or intend booking a flight for further information please contact the Ride Operator. Same no one sorted the weather!

2020 Bristol Balloon Fiesta Update
The organisers of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta have stuck out and left it as late as they dared hoping that the Fiesta would go ahead. Finally they have had to resign themselves that a full on Fiesta at Ashton Court is not going to happen. They have however come up with a bit of a solution. In their latest press release they explained that, ‘Balloons will take to the skies over Bristol this summer and our nightglow will take place online, but there will not be event at Ashton Court’. They go on to explain that, ‘In order to adhere to the governmental guidelines around social distancing, the 2020 edition of Bristol International Balloon Fiesta cannot take place as normal. Instead we’re bringing you the inaugural Fiesta Flypast, which will see iconic balloons flying over the city on one morning to be selected between 1-14 August. We are inviting Bristolians to watch the balloons from the safety of their own doorsteps and gardens. Social distancing means we absolutely cannot gather in parks or Bristol’s open spaces or invite our audiences to see the balloons take off or land, to protect our pilots and the public. We have also teamed up with BBC Radio Bristol for another lockdown treat, in the form of a virtual nightglow, staged with extra special additions and a soundtrack produced to lift the spirits of the city on Saturday 8th August. Anyone who has already purchased car parking for the event please go to our ticketing page on the website for full details. The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta will return to Ashton Court on Thursday 12th – Sunday 15th August 2021’.

Kubicek launch online parts catalogue.
The UK’s Kubicek dealer Doug Hoddinott dropped us a note to let us know that a new part of the Kubicek website designed to help repair stations and maintenance people with finding Kubicek spares has been launched. The online catalogue has been designed to be easy to navigate and operate. The idea behind this is to make Kubiceks’ spares service to be even quicker and more efficient in its delivery and to ensure less downtime for clients. You can set up a free account to access further benefits of the catalogue and details on how to do this are on the main catalogue page.
This is just one of the ways they are looking to improve their service and product ranges for all their customers and balloonists. They will be making further announcements in the coming weeks and months ahead both UK specific and worldwide on further projects they have been working on. If you need any help regarding Kubicek Balloons or their other products please do not hesitate to contact Doug at and he will be happy to help. The Parts Catalogue can be found at

Airbus 340 and 380 do cargo
Amid the excitement that the wonderous Airbus 380 will no longer be built, the last due off the line in 2021 probably to Emirates, but they are trying to cancel the deal by all accounts, the future use of these giants as freighters is being considered. The first company to retire an Airbus 380 was Singapore Airlines the aircraft going to Portugese budget airline Hi Fly. Now if there was a country that doesn’t need a double decker now it is probably Portugal! Anyway a few seats short of a full load Hi Fly decided the best thing to do was to junk all the economy seats and give the space over to cargo. With a payload of around 60 tons most of the space is now given over to cargo. Lest you forget its also got a hold as well. Currently it is carrying COVID-19 medical and protective equipment. Airbus did originally have plans for a freight version but the sales fell short of expectations so it was dropped. The ‘temporary freighter’ conversion was carried out by Lufthansa Tecnik and is one of a number of types they are working on. With the high running costs of a four engined jet and the development of the vastly more efficient modern twins its life wasn’t expected to last more than 12 to 15 years and the dramatic fall off in demand for air travel simply made the inevitable occur much sooner. With an hourly running cost of over £20,000 in a passenger configuration and limited destinations the market for a secondhand 380 is limited whereas used 747s still sell well. Wonder if I can get one to use as a shed.

Another aircraft that seems to have been overlooked in the news as a victim of events is the Airbus 340. One of the prettiest four engined airliners ever built I reckon. Production ended in 2011 and sadly, like the 380, they are now thirsty beasts but on the flip side fuel prices have fallen dramatically. Virgin Atlantic retired their last three in February and they joined others including former Etihad examples in storage at Bournemouth with the European Aviation Group. CEO Paul Stoddart has already converted six to temporary freighters again supporting the supply of COVID equipment and supplies. At present all the seats have been removed and the cabins filled with light weight packages whilst the hold is used for heavier items. Payload would similar to the 380 at about 60 tons in the full freighter mode but at present they are lightly loading the cabin area. Permission is being sought to convert them to freighters proper but without a large loading door. It is planned to have 10 operating by the end of the year.
Thing is that as more and more large aircraft are getting retired the market is getting somewhat swamped and already the earlier, much more efficient, Boeing 777s are being retired and getting converted so it the sight of four engined jets may soon be a thing of the past.

Whizz Bang – Abingdon Summer Fireworks Festival
Although now somewhat scaled back the organisers of the Summer Fireworks Festival on the 22nd August at Abingdon Airfield have announced that the event is currently going ahead. They would like to have a good number of balloons there again if possible. Participants are welcome to fly of course, or just tether. Entry on to site will be returned if you fly or tether. Those that attended last year will agree that the firework displays were stunning. No gas is available but you will get free entry to the event and get some see some incredible firework displays. If you would like to attend then please send Phil Cooper a PM (whatever that is!) or email him on

Trevor’s Glastonbury
Understandable but very sad that Glastonbury became yet another victim of the CoronoVirus but in the Terrace it was all a go-go. With great stuff on the radio and TV over the weekend, and indeed during the week, it was brilliant and afforded time to remember all the great former ones and the artists that performed their especially those that explained how wonderful and mind-blowin’ the event had been for them. As will all things loud music it was celebrated in its absence by many not least Trevor who went and bought himself a VW camper complete with flowers and a very 70s interior. On the face of it it looked OK but is going to need some work here and mainly there like they all do. His missus, Rox, immediately donned long flowery skirts, sorted wine and sounds and took to it like a duck to water for the event. Hasn’t been out of much of late. Puts a smile on your face to see and hear it bopping away as I get home in the evening, Fleetwood Mac whittering down the Terrace. Polly likes it too. Trevor decided to sort the bodywork ahead of a respray, discovered the joys of a VW campers’ gearchange and has had the engine (new you know) sorted. Its away at the moment having the brakes something else that came as bit of a shock to him. Sadly, as a result of filler and a dent found beneath, the rear flowers have gone but we’ll get a peace and love sticker to disguise the Trevor repair!

John wings it again
Seems word is getting about that we sew up wing coverings. Latest job was a covering for the wings of a Cessna Airmaster being restored by The Midland Aeroplane Company on Turweston Airfield. Traditional coverings have been replaced by products such as Ceconite which behaves like a slippery version of hyperlast under the needles and is very thread sensitive which makes it tricky to sew up, even in straight runs, however Needles John has got the hang of it and makes a lovely job of it. The Airmaster is proper aeroplane with a proper radial engine and played a significant role in the revival and the survival of Cessna following the Great Depression in the 1930s that seems to have been forgotten. The Midland Aeroplane Co have a Facebook page that is charting its progress.

Next News shock horror
As the last few News bits have been full of COVID stuff we are determined that the next one will have no COVID stuff. It will still be lurking and painful, I know  but apart from the normal reminder stuff on the Welcome page that will be it.