Balloon Repair Station

Dissenting Views Part 2 The Commercial Licence – Cary Crawley

Cary Crawley has campaigned long and hard on behalf of the commercial balloon pilot and the value of the very well respected UK CPL for many years. His efforts to make the CAA see reason are based on his vast experience of not only flying the largest ride balloons but setting up ride businesses and advising on balloon ride operations in many overseas countries based around the UK system. There have always been areas that could have been improved especially in the appointment of Commercial Instructors and a meaningful training syllabus to support a separate commercial licence. As SMEs on the CAA specialising the commercial side of ballooning both Cary and Steve Richards have worked hard to get the CAA to retain a separate licence which may just happen. This will mean a lot of changes to the proposed BPL as it presently stands which the rest of the licensing argument could take advantage of. What is paramount is the safety aspect which the proposal of a rating attached to the BPL does not address. It is also essential that the CPL continues to be the route for new rides pilots, of which there is a shortfall, to gain full and proper training without it putting them off. So here below is Cary’s talk which he gave at the BBAC SGM on Saturday 13th January 2024. Conducted by the magic of the wibbly wobbly web with John Tyrell at the controls, all the way from Chile. Amazing.

This forms a very good reference document when looking at the CAA’s Work Streams 1 and 2 which will up in a day or two. Many of what the CAA consider ‘Dissenting Views’ are very ably discussed here not least the strong feelings within, and outside of, a totally separate Commercial Licence as we currently have. At just about every turn the proposed BPL(C) rating tagged onto the basic licence shows scant regard for the most important aspect of licensing and that is to ensure the highest consideration to safety for passengers is given and, just as importantly, maintained. The fear then if the CPL(B) as a stand alone licence cannot be delivered by the CAA then the BPL(C) needs a really serious kicking to make it acceptable. Over to Cary then.

Cary Crawley BBAC SGM1 13.01.24 Notes
Firstly, I would say that in my opinion all SMEs have made some valuable contributions to the review process, though I am personally not in concert with many of those views expressed by the original two SME’s and am not comfortable with their apparent undue influence particularly at the earlier stages of the process.

My particular concern and interest has been in the development and protection of a Commercial Passenger Carrying Rating.

I believe that I have been a member of the BBAC continuously since 1986. I have been a full-time commercial balloonist since 1984. I have logged 4,563 hours in balloons, most of which are commercial and flying large passenger carrying balloons.

I always understood that with some notable exceptions the BBAC Main Committees, the “Flying Committees” and some sub-groups were at times a Caucus of unaccountable Cronies populated by a few very well-meaning and sometimes naïve enthusiasts and then others protecting sundry personal fiefdoms. I have always accepted this as a normal fact of life. Some individuals were knowledgeable and principled and some rather more interested in progressing a personal advantage.

None of this really mattered to me unless it seriously affected my ability to earn a living in a safe and professional manner, or if I thought it significantly affected public safety.

I became focused on how the BBAC was representing me and the interests of British Commercial Ballooning when about sixteen years or so ago I realised that their representations to EASA were in my opinion inappropriate and flawed. After some extremely focused and relentless lobbying to the highest in authority at EASA, the UK CAA and the UK Department of Transport I was able (invited) to attend appropriate EASA meetings in Koln at my own (significant) expense and representing my own opinion.

My attendance at these meetings was met with some raw hostility by the ruling BBAC Caucus of the time. Members were then encouraged to trust the matter of EASA licensing negotiations unquestioningly to the BBAC worthies. Though many members also felt betrayed by their representatives when learning of the potential outcomes at a late hour. It is noteworthy that the then EASA team leader Matthias Borgmeier assured me at the time, the option of a separate Commercial License for balloon pilots had been initially available but none of the “national” representatives such as the BBAC had mentioned or pressed for it, and that by the time I had become involved, the die was cast, and it was too late.

After the appalling news that our eventual compromise of the mandated BPL had lost its primary benefit by removing the holder’s ability to fly and work unchallenged in the EU Member States, (With no apparent warning by the BBAC of, and in, the limited time window when BPL holders might have transitioned to full EASA benefits. I feel that in a similar situation the BFA would have warned us.) … and noting that the commercial passenger ballooning industry in the UK were being represented to the UK CAA for a licensing review by two BBAC worthies apparently neither of whom had in my opinion any significant Commercial Passenger Balloon Flying experience, but had been mysteriously selected by the CAA as “Subject Matter Experts”, I started lobbying again, this time to the high officers of the U.K.CAA, the Department of Transport, the Minister of Transport ,the P.M. Boris Johnson and my very helpful local MP Vicky Ford, this time for a more informed group of Subject Matter Experts to advise on any balloon licensing review body.

In my opinion we would have been better off keeping the ANO licenses and perhaps making appropriate revisions where required, however it has been clear that from the very beginning the CAA or the D. of T. or both have decided not to encourage the acceptance of this. I suspect there might be something as basic as the costs of staff training or another cost-based concern at the root of their motive.

The ongoing acceptance and recommendation of the sub-EASA BPL by the BBAC “representative “ Subject Matter Experts seems though a bizarre state of denial of the wishes of the membership of their apparent sponsoring organisation, for which I have yet to know a rational explanation. The CAA position was flipped back and forth several times from these two SMEs as being general “Experts” to them being BBAC representatives. On the CAA side, I note that the officers who might have initially appointed the first two Subject Matter Experts have also seemingly moved on to other projects.

I had spent some energy requesting the CAA definition criteria of an “Expert”, I believe perhaps even extending to an FOI request as I was perplexed how this term could be used in a Commercial Ballooning sense in conjunction with the initially appointed two SMEs, a matter which I also raised with the CAA, the Department of Transport, and the Minister for Transport.

Commercial Passenger Carrying License or Rating.
I have pressed hard in my own representations for a separate Commercial Passenger Carrying Licence, or if not a licence, then at least a Rating.

It became clear to me at all of the consultation meetings that if Commercial Passenger Flying was absorbed into an all-encompassing “Commercial Rating”, covering what we used to call “Aerial Work”, and Commercial Passenger Flying, and this was granted early in the license issue then, this might risk being debased to the easiest form at the beginning, be administered by DTO personnel with insufficient Subject Matter Experience and have no value in ensuring the safety of the 30-40,000 members of the British public who flew as commercial fare paying passengers in large public transport balloons each year.

There might be no significant experience requirement or training requirements on group sizes or any input into the training of commercial passenger carrying pilots by experienced practitioners or examiners. If the Commercial Passenger side of flying is merely treated as another line in a “Commercial Exemption” gained out of convenience at the start of a pilot’s career they will not benefit from the process of personal development and experience which informs a safe and mindful commercial passenger carrying pilot.

I am unsympathetic to objections by potential candidates based upon training and qualifying costs. This in my opinion is no justification to create an inferior professional qualification.

If we cannot have an appropriate CPL(B), I am then in basic terms promoting a separate Commercial Passenger Carrying Rating.

1. Commercial Passenger Carrying Rating
(a) I would suggest that a minimum of 100 hours Pilot in Command in balloons is required with a minimum of 5 hours certified flight training conducted by a Commercial Balloon Pilot Instructor on each group size applied for.
(b) Distinct Group Size Training by appropriately experienced Commercial Rated instructors who have done the job of flying larger passenger balloons themselves.
(c) The currently existing BBAC Instructor authority in isolation is in my opinion dangerously insufficiently informed and inappropriate for the purposes of training or assessing commercial candidates who are intent upon gaining a professional, commercial qualification which will normally involve them flying larger capacity passenger carrying balloons in enhanced socially and economically pressurised conditions.
(d) Candidates undergoing flight training for the carriage of commercial paying passengers and for transition within the Group size categories should be trained by appropriately experienced and qualified Commercial Passenger Carrying Balloon Pilot Instructors who have done the job of flying larger passenger balloons themselves.
(e) Examination for these Group Size Ratings by significantly commercially experienced examiners who have also done the job of flying larger passenger balloons themselves.

(NOTE . I am very much against the current EASA (BPL) position whereby any Examiner can examine on any Group Size rating they might have gained throughout their flying life but never or rarely used in any significant commercial form.)

I believe that any “Commercial Knowledge“ examinations should be appropriate and relevant to the task, I do not believe they need be a pain-penalty for entry. They should though include at least the following subjects;

(i) Passenger handling with larger numbers, including passenger briefings and potential passenger emergencies.
(ii) Commercially lead pressure components and Operator lead influences upon decision making.
)iii) Balloon operating practices, including the benefits of fuel pressurisation, basket occupancy, the use of passenger bench seat “squabs” in compartments.
(iv) Flight Planning
(v) Human Performance Factors with a particular emphasis on emotional distractions and also fatigue.
(vi) Flight Time Limitation programmes.
(vii) Decision making.
(viii) Emergencies and disaster management.
(ix) Potential ways to invalidate your insurance and to incriminate yourself.

I do not believe that all of these items would normally be fully understood by many of the often young very low hours recently qualified PUTs that we hope to attract, and I do believe that some of these subjects are better understood after gaining an appropriate level of flight experience and airmanship.

I am not completely comfortable with the idea of a DTO adding this as a part of the pathway to commercial instruction during any PPL training. I believe such training should be considered additional and part of the Commercial Passenger Carrying Syllabus.

I am perhaps a little more flexible than some on the qualifying intermediate hour requirements between group sizes if the candidate has had genuine and focused, appropriate training by appropriately experienced practitioners, however I believe that what is currently on offer might prove to be the proposition most acceptable to many.

Commercial Passenger Carrying Balloon Pilot Instructor Rating
Current BBAC Instructor rating holders presently have no clear way of identifying their commercial experience and of proving their suitability to instruct Commercial Pilots to candidates or to the CAA, they have no simple way of demonstrating the appropriate nature of their qualifications to insurers, the AIB or the wider public. I therefore continue to propose the creation of a Commercial Passenger Carrying Balloon Pilot Instructor Rating.

I would make the following recommendations:

1) Candidates should have an agreed minimum hours requirement; I would suggest four hundred hours commercial passenger flying experience as Pilot in Command of balloons though realise a lower number will probably be more likely to be accepted.
2) Candidates should have a minimum of seventy-five commercial passenger flying hours experience in each or at least the largest group size they chose to instruct.
3) Qualifying candidates should undergo periodic training and reassessment every five years.
4) Applying candidates who have previously been Type Rating Examiners or commercial Examiners should be welcomed and I note that this could be seen as a path towards becoming a Commercial Balloon Pilot Examiner.

Commercial Balloon Pilot Examiner
With regard to Examiners who are conducting proficiency checks for initial issue and renewal of privileges for Commercial Passenger carrying.

I recommend that this authority is reviewed and retained and should not be automatically passed on to Private Examiners who currently hold a CPLB or BPL.

I also recommend that the privileges of examining candidates on larger group sized balloons should not be a privilege automatically granted to Examiners who have not recorded at least one hundred hours Pilot in Command in the large commercial passenger carrying Group Sizes on which they are granted examiner rating privileges.

Furthermore, proposing that there is no safety evidence to support a requirement for Commercial Examiners to have adequate experience to inform their judgement relating to the granting and retention of commercial passenger carrying privileges would be, in my opinion, a demonstration of inexperience by the proposer.

I would make the following recommendations;

1) Candidates should have a minimum of five hundred hours commercial passenger flying experience as Pilot in Command of balloons.
2) Candidates should have a minimum of one hundred commercial passenger flying experience in the largest group size they are approved to examine.
3) Qualifying candidates should undergo periodic training and reassessment every five years.
4) Applying candidates who have previously been Type Rating Examiners and who fulfil the experience criteria should be welcomed.

With regard to ” private -flight training” I am not completely comfortable with the concept of everything being done under the all-seeing eye of a BBAC DTO.

This has no historically proven benefit and could invalidate valuable training by experienced pilots who for whatever reason are not BBAC card carriers. Furthermore, I have little to no confidence in the current administration of the BBAC DTO.

Cary Crawley. BBAC 4240