28th February 2014
Increasing amounts of regulation and escalating fees could finally pop the successful Bristol ballooning industry. Since 2008, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has taken over much of the responsibility for regulating the aviation sectors within the UK from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with the result being more centralised control and additional regulations.
South West MEP Ashley Fox recently met with local ballooning businessman, Don Cameron, at his Bristol based factory to discuss his concerns on the future of hot air balloons in the UK. Since 2008 ,EASA has made numerous changes, each one adding new regulations and increased costs. One example of this is that manufacturers now need four separate approvals to cover all aspects of the industry, whereas before they needed just one.
“Ballooning in the UK has a proud history but that tradition is being damaged by more and more rules and regulations,” commented Mr Cameron during the visit. “Ballooning has three sectors: sporting, business and hobbyists. By increasing the costs of training, by making it harder to run a balloon and constantly putting barriers in place for new people to get involved, they are squeezing out the hobbyists. It is these enthusiasts that then go on to run hot air businesses or become sporting professionals. If we lose them, then the whole industry could go.”
“I fear that EASA is taking the same rules that apply to airlines and forcing them on a totally different aviation sector,” commented Mr Fox during the visit. “For example EASA is proposing medical examinations by specifically appointed doctors for all balloon pilots. This makes sense in an airplane where pilot incapacity could easily be fatal to those on-board, but in over 230 years of ballooning there has never been a recorded accident stemming from a pilot’s medical condition.”
“You don’t have to fly a balloon to enjoy them. Every year in Bristol the Balloon Festival sees the skies above Bristol full of hot-air balloons of all shapes and sizes and every year the city turns out to watch them. I will be taking this issue up directly with EASA. We cannot allow overzealous European rules to devastate an industry that brings so much joy to so many people.”
Pictured with Don Cameron of Cameron Balloons at their Bedminster factory in Bristol.