Balloon Repair Station

Welcome 08.01.2024

Indeed a warm welcome to you and we trust you had a lovely Christmas and wish all the very best for 2024. On a sad note John’s mum passed away on Boxing Day at the ripe old age of 97. Apart from being John’s best friend she was a great person. She had a couple of Mills and Boon stories published. I read one. It was pretty raunchy. A lovely lady. Just before Christmas, Christopher Dean, Pete’s godfather, died unexpectedly. He was a Wendover boy and often around the balloons in the early days of The Black Horse Balloon Club. He was a great crew and crewed on the circuit from time to time or at special events. We spent many happy days chasing steam engines, push bikes, rusty cars or anything really. He was a great photographer, cartoonist and many a balloonist was gifted one of his works. He will be greatly missed.

On happier things, we were gifted with good weather on Christmas Day and managed to resurrect the village horse ride. Six horses out and Jane, me, grand daughters Izzie, Holly, Nicole and Little Willow, now turned two and escorted valiantly by Mary, rode down to The Swan for port and softies supported by Alice and mad dog Merlin with Jay bringing a pushchair as backup. No chance of that, Willow rode there and back and I didn’t fall off. It was really nice to be on ‘an ‘orse again. Last time we did it was with Pete a couple of years ago after his surgery. Boxing Day was a family invasion of Wellwick Farm and a table full of food followed by a walk back with Izzie down the Spooky Lane under a full moon. I warned her to look out for the headless horseman as he can’t see where he’s going. How she laughed! Being a responsible ten year old a comfort stop was suggested in The Swan. After a swiftly we wandered back peaking through brightly lit windows admiring Christmas decorations and a group of beaming Father Christmases.

No apologies but this edition is full of very important licensing stuff. It is laid out in a number of articles which I hope will help you to understand what is really going on and where we are at the moment. We will update stuff as soon as we know so keep a look out. So best foot forward for the introduction of what’s in this issue. This is the most important thing to hit ballooning as we will explain in a separate article. The first one is on the proposed basic BPL licence. In the following days we will publish the other three papers. Dull reading but so very important.

I had hoped that sense would have prevailed in 2023 regards licensing but sadly apart from some real possibility of the CAA agreeing to a separate Commercial Licence, the future of the old UK Pilots Licence UK PPL(B) is in serious trouble. The CAA have hailed the changes as ‘Licensing Simplification’ running a top rate dog’s wotsit revue enlisting ‘Subject Matter Experts’ (SMEs) to assist in helping them make the new licence more complicated and expensive. According to the CAA they have ‘been reaching out to the communities through the subject matter experts, working with groupings of experts (technical committees/panels/etc)’. In the eyes of the CAA these SMEs have been working with the BBAC, balloonists the clubs and regions. No they haven’t. The findings of James MacDonald’s Survey and another by the BBAC shows that in both cases over 80% of balloonists want to retain the UKPPL(B). Luckily there is a group of us putting pressure on the CAA (including a few real SMEs) to ensure satisfactory changes are made. Sadly appeals for support and information from the BBAC have, over the past three years, come to nothing.

Well now a request for a Special General Meeting forced upon the BBAC by what have become known as The Dissenters’ (from CAA terminology for allowing ‘dissenting views’ or comments not in line with their thinking ) will take place on 13th January 2024 at The Holiday Inn, Bedford Road, Northampton NN4 7YF starting at 10.00. Attendance can be in person or online zoom. For attending online contact the BBAC Secretary The agenda has been set by the BBAC Main Committee and we hope it will focus on the current state of the BPL licensing revue and quite what the BBAC are, or will, be doing about it at this late stage. For a fuller take on the problem please check out Ian Chadwick’s brief history of the switch from UK PPL(B) to the EASA licence and thence to the UK BPL. We are also publishing all four of the final draft papers from the CAA that have gone to the SMEs for comment. Some make heady reading but the salient points are raised in the introduction. The link to the paper will be in the appropriate article. Thing is the BBAC Chairman has stated that only about 10% of the membership are expected to attend the SGM. That is really bad news, we need to get as many as possible. This is the first of what I am sure will be a series of very critical meetings for licensing, the BBAC and ballooning in general. Easy Balloons are keen to continue representing BBAC members and non-members alike. UK Ballooning is in a serious decline. This is not helping. We need all the help we can get. Please check out the Licensing stuff and forward it to anyone you think can help or needs to know. It is important.

Well now, that lot has left little room for much else in this bit. Briefly the workshop is getting a bit of a makeover and is in a sate of turmoil at the moment meaning The Dark Barn is full of stuff as a result (to be sorted later). Having re-grouped and had a re-think we will be around for a couple of years yet and hopefully see out the licensing nonsense. For those visiting the workshop you will notice we have gone from ambulances to fire engines. The fire engines go off to film shoots just in case an ashtray catches fire or they need to shoot indoors involving a candle. Anyway that’s the future as far as Shannon is concerned and as they have moved south you shouldn’t have to worry about Big Dog, Tuesday the Alsatian and Himmler the sausage dog coming to greet you. Their new place has a lake so The Swan Fishing Club are all set to take it over. We will try and keep the goings-on up to date a lot more frequently this year. In the meantime, once again, have a great New Year. Thanks for visiting.

All the best Chris, Jane, John and Polly

Apologies for the lack of happy snappies but as a result of a Google onslaught that bit isn’t working at the moment but the rest is back!