EBF is happy to publish the latest version of the recommendations for General Aviation. This document has been worked out by GA stakeholders (including EBF for ballooning) & EASA. It is only recommendations, not compulsory, but we believe it may be very useful to make a decision before a flight.
EBF has prepared a COVID 19 Protocol for our members to either uses or take as a idea to expand on. It is available to EBF members and is meant to generate ideas and suggestions. If you already have a protocol you may want to read the EBF protocol and compare.
For your information and consideration I attach the EASA recommendations (not compulsory) regarding COVID 19 measures for flights.
They are not specifically written for ballooning, but you can distil from these what you think is needed.
We have proposed to restart commercial ballooning based on these suggestions in the Netherlands. We will know next week if they have the guts to say yes to our suggestions. All the research points toward a extremely remote chance to get infected in the open air if normal hygienic measures are observed. Covering mouth and nose with protective hospital quality covers offers very limited protection if you are not trained appropriately.
The first thing to say is that virtually every nation has developed its own overall public response, so different limitations exist as do different policies for ‘exit’ timing. Even within single countries (such as Germany) several variations and enforcement levels exist.
Clearly the most limiting element in all this is ‘social distancing’, which varies from 2 (UK)-10 (Denmark) people in a group, and at distances ranging from 1.5-2.0m.
In addition certification limits (Maintenance Manual Programme) mean that there can be no deferral of annual inspection by more than one month for any EASA-certified manufacturer, even though other elements such as ARCs and pilot medicals are being extended in most countries. This may mean a queue for inspections once opening-up is announced, and only then if distancing is not enforced. Imagine inspecting a Group D balloon with limited help?
Remember that big balloons using the rapid deflation methods installed by most, if not all, manufacturers, have a calculated Minimum Landing Mass (a Flight Manual Limitation). This means you cannot just say “let’s take 8 passengers instead of 16”.
Then the distancing issues, starting before the flight:
Can a briefing be given without passengers being shown the safety features of entry, restraint, landing position etc?
How many passengers can be in each compartment (even if separated by a screen between compartments)? Most sections are at maximum 2-2.5m long.
With small single-compartment baskets required separation is practically impossible without obstructing the pilot.
How is the work of rigging, inflating, and subsequent packing to be achieved with separation? A 375 balloon envelope weighs around 350-400kg. Even with mechanical assistance this will be a challenge.
Returning to the take-off site in a vehicle. How many occupants (including pilot, crew, pax) are permitted in a vehicle?
How will landowners/farmers react to a large group of strangers arriving on their land?
All this assumes that VFR flight is permitted by the NAA and that limitations on location (most aircraft, but not balloons, take off and land in a known and controlled environment) are relaxed. Even private flights are likely to be affected by many of these considerations.
Some questions can be answered by innovation, but care should be taken not to solve one problem and inadvertently create another.
After Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, and UK, we have the pleasure to welcome Germany, represented by the talented Willi Eimers, President of the ballooning section of the Deutscher Aero Club. We are certain that Germany will be a very important contributor to our work, and we warmly welcome the German balloonists.
Times flies: nearly 6 years have passed since the creation of EBF, on April 14th 2014 in Paris.
EBF will enter its 7th year in 2020 and has been working with EASA on all matters regarding ballooning regulations for more than 5 years and is actively participating in working groups on several topics regarding general aviation.
This means that a small group of people participate not only in Rule Making Tasks, but also in focus groups that conceive the future of aviation safety. Ballooning may be small in number of pilots, but our implication is certainly as strong as other disciplines.
This is what we have done since we started to work with EASA in 2015:
Operations, Part BOP: finished, and already in force since April 2019. Only a few details in AMC/GM need to be synchronized with other parts.
Training: The “DTO” (Declared Training Organization”) in a few months (April 2020) training will only be possible inside DTOs (or ATOs). This will structure and harmonize training throughout Europe, allow all European pilots to benefit from the same quality of training and therefore to be able to work in other European countries, as training, for commercial pilots, is linked with operations and licences
Licences: BFCL. The task force, created by EBF and EASA in 2016, chaired by Paul Spellward from UK, has achieved its mission, as the new licences come to a reality in 2020. The AMC and GM are also ready, so all European pilots will have the same licence.
In parallel with the BFCL work, the medical requirement for the BPL except when conducting commercial passenger ballooning has been reduced to the LAPL medical, which is a major success driven by EBF.
Maintenance rules are being refresher and made somewhat lighter with the arrival also in 2020 of Part M Light. This rulemaking task started in 2013, with EBF taking the lead for ballooning in 2014.
You will be very surprised to know that all this has been achieved by a very small number of people:
Karel Abbenes, from Holland, EBF Vice President
Phil Dunnington, from UK, EBF General Secretary
Geert Peirsman, from Belgium, Treasurer
Jan Andersen, from Denmark, Webmaster
Paul Spellward, from UK, chairman of BFCL task force, and Jean Donnet, FCL expert
Thank you All For your dedication, competence, and friendship!
Our thanks also go to the EASA team, especially to Patrick Ky and Dominique Roland who took us seriously from the beginning and made all this possible, and to all other participants in the working groups. In particular on the BFCL work, Daan Doussi and Christian Kucher have worked closely and warmly with the ballooning experts.
Last but not least, I would like to also congratulate our Spanish representative, Neus Llado, who recently gave birth to twins! The future of ballooning is on its way!
So, on behalf of all members, and the executive Committee, I wish to all balloonists a very successful and very safe 2020.
EASA and EBF have been working for the last three years to produce pilot licensing rules specifically designed for ballooning. Instead of being part of a big rulebook covering all general aviation, the new Part BFCL provides simpler, lighter rules and a much shorter rulebook, just for ballooning. Part BFCL was approved by the EASA committee on 24th October and will be published officially in the Official Journal of the EU most likely in January.
From April 9th 2020, it is expected that pilots will exchange their national licences for the EASA Balloon Pilots Licence (BPL) during a one year transition period. Pilots already holding EASA Part FCL ballooning licences, BPL or LAPL(B) can exchange them via their national aviation authority from the same date.
A summary of the rules and expected implementation arrangements are given in a briefing document available from EBF. Further updates can be expected in January after the Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMCs) and Guidance Materials (GMs) is published.