Balloon Repair Station

The Great BBAC Licence Swindle – Head above the parapet

The Great BBAC Licence Swindle – Head above the parapet
Having largely failed to get any meaningful discussion or response from the British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) Flying Committee’s commitment to remaining fully aligned with EASA and without any clear intention to prepare for the departure from EASA on 31st December this year, after much ‘umming and ‘arring and much contemplation we decided that the only way to get the matter noticed by the Main Committee was to make a submission under ‘Any Other Business’. Submitted to the Secretary it was sent out according to procedure to all the members of the Main Committee and was included under ‘Flying Committee’ at the 25th November meeting. There was a good turnout aside of The Committee members and the meeting lasted an impressive four hours. From the feedback we received it appears a lot came out of it, not least that the transparency demanded by members was acknowledged. It was also apparent that the Main Committee had not seen, or were even aware of, the Post-Brexit Manifesto and the statements contained therein until the meeting. Crispin Williams had also submitted a couple of items for discussion one of which referred to James McDonalds’ survey and the need for its value to be recognised. As a result a further meeting has been called for Wednesday 25th November to further discuss the possible withdrawal of the Post-Brexit Manifesto, something we feel very strongly about. We are hoping for the best! What follows is a copy of the item submitted. I am hoping to sit in on the meeting on Wednesday 25th albeit as an observer and to see exactly how the Committee is chaired. There are many pilots that are not members of the BBAC, for whatever reason, however the BBAC must appreciate that they too matter. Obviously the BBAC is supposed to be the public face of ballooning but then again so are those involved in the Balloon Rides industry that also depend on the respect that the UK CPL licence is afforded.

Submission to the BBAC November Main Committee Meeting under Any Other Business
It appears to me, and indeed many other BBAC members, that there is less than any transparency in the way decisions are being taken, and policies arrived at, especially in relation to the future of the licensing opportunities afforded to us once we leave EASA in 2021. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to get any opinion that differs from the published BBAC policy raised or discussed in any proper constitutional way.

The complete lack of any transparency within the BBAC Committees, no proper balanced and unbiased revues of their findings being published and appearing to completely dismiss the feelings of membership is an appalling state of affairs. This is not helped by the lack of minutes being available for recent Flying or Technical Committee meetings or talks with the CAA. It really isn’t the way a Chairman or the Committees should be behaving. Perhaps the Committees themselves are not being fully consulted or informed?

James McDonald, to his immense credit, and a fair share of very public BBAC put-downs at the highest level, launched a really simple to understand survey to determine whether balloonists wished to retain the UK Licences, or opt for the UK-BPL. The survey showed that 87.3% of the 212 responses registered wished to maintain the UK Licence system. That isn’t insignificant yet has been debunked by the BBAC and ridiculed by the Chairman. In itself it is not a problem as those already holding a UK licence will be able to continue to use it until at least October 2021. During that time we will be in a position to enter full and frank talks with the CAA to determine what we actually want, however, as it is unlikely that any final decision will be made before that date, an extension needs to be sought.

The BBAC Chairman has stated on a number of occasions that ‘there is no point in holding talks with the CAA until after we leave EASA’, it now turns out that the BBAC produced a ‘Post-EASA Manifesto (version 1.3)’ to the CAA in August 2020. Without any consultation with the membership it stated that, ‘The BBAC has no intention to return to the UK PPL or CPL’. This then is currently what the CAA regard as the wishes of the BBAC. Thanks to James’ poll it is proven that this isn’t the case at all. I have searched high and low and can find no mention of the Manifesto in the minutes of the Flying Committee nor the BBAC Main Committee. The question then is, “How was it discussed, and at which meeting was it approved?” I have asked that it be published so we, the membership, know what has been decided in our absence. There has been no acknowledgement, or indeed any response to the request. Additionally it appears that the BBAC Chairman was asked by the CAA back in March 2020 to assist with the production of the 20200305 Conversion Report-BFCL-BPL-v1.3 covering the transition of licences. It appears this was done without any consultation at all with the Flying Committee nor the BBAC Main Committee. There are no BBAC records relating to it so it must be assumed that was conducted independently of the BBAC.

We all realise that we cannot escape the presence of the UK-BPL when it arrives in 2021 however the transition date was extended to October 2021. On the CAA’s own admission it is unlikely that they will be able to look closely at either balloon or glider licences until ‘late 2021’. At present the BBAC Chairman is personally pushing for all pilots to convert to a UK BPL by October 2021. This is nuts. It is unacceptable that arbitrary conversion is promoted by the very organisation that represents UK ballooning before the situation has been properly revued within the BBAC itself. Obviously, before we leave EASA full and meaningful talks with the CAA are pretty pointless but before we go to the CAA the BBAC must have a Manifesto and Agenda that has been fully researched and discussed with the wishes of the majority of the membership taken fully into account.

I formally request that the Post-EASA BBAC Agenda (version 1.3) that has been lodged with the CAA without any approval by the Flying Committee or the Main Committee is withdrawn. If the BBAC will not withdraw it then it must be published.

I request that the matter of the future approach to licensing is fully and properly discussed, minuted and reported by the appropriate Committees in a fully transparent manner with the full involvement of all parties and in accordance with the BBAC Constitution.

I also ask that the BBAC discusses with the CAA the possibility of extending the transition date, initially until late 2022 (as reported in the August 2020 BBAC’s Pilot’s Circular) or until a decision on licensing is reached and to continue to issue UK PPL and CPL licences.

Chris Dunkley
BBAC Membership no 3024