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MEP backs calls from balloonists

Wednesday 14th April 2010

Ballooning enthusiasts are blighted with European legislation that negatively impacts on both recreational and commercial hot air ballooning. East Midlands Conservative MEP Roger Helmer, following letters from several constituents, has met with representatives from the British Balloon and Airship Club and neighbouring West Midlands Conservative MEP Philip Bradbourn to discuss the legislation.

MEPs Helmer and Bradbourn learnt how the European Aviation Safety Agency which develops regulations for aircraft is having a detrimental effect on ballooning by dramatically increasing bureaucracy. It used to take one hour, including form-filling, to inspect a hot air balloon whereas now it takes several hours. Due to the volume of paperwork the British Balloon and Airship Club has now had to start charging balloonists £100 + VAT for an inspection on top of the hourly rate for the inspectors. With the inspection fee and the increased length of time for an inspection it is estimated that hundreds of balloons throughout the UK are grounded as owners cannot afford to comply with the EU regulations.

It is not commonly known but the UK is the largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in the world, estimated to be worth around £10m per annum. Helmer and Bradbourn were extremely concerned to hear the representatives’ anxieties that if both private enthusiasts and those who fly hot air balloons commercially cannot afford to keep their balloons manufacturing will also decline.

Mr Ian Warrington, a hot air balloon pilot based in Rutland, comments:

“The European Aviation Safety Agency has a broad and unrefined approach.

“If the demands and costs resulting from the European red tape continue to increase many private pilots will simply give up.”

Mr Helmer comments:

“The one-size-fits-all approach of the European legislation which groups together hot air balloons with jumbo jets is simply not practical.

“The leisure and commercial sector of ballooning, and also gliding, were extremely effective and safe when they were self-regulated. The European regulations do not raise safety standards, just add costs and unnecessary paperwork.

“My Conservative colleagues and I will seek action from the European Commission to exclude gliding and ballooning from these unnecessary regulations which only interfere in a pastime that should be pleasurable and fun.”