• The EASA Committee of the European Commission met on 28-29 June and voted positively to introduce the first part of the Balloon Regulation, namely Balloon Air Operations.  The EASA Committee meets three times a year for two day meetings and this is the fifth consecutive meeting where Balloon Air Operations has been debated, but the first such meeting where a vote of member states has been taken.

    The new regulation is expected to be published and become European law either in late 2017 or early 2018.  However, it will not enter into force until 8 April 2019, with compliance being mandatory by 8 October 2019.

    The EASA “Road Map for GA” called for simpler and more proportionate regulations for the General Aviation sector and Balloon Air Operations has been something of a pathfinder for this principle.  

    The new regulation is being developed by ballooning experts and the working group is drawn from:

    • EASA,
    • National Aviation Authorities,
    • balloon manufacturers,
    • balloon representative bodies
      and
    • the European Balloon Federation. 

    A parallel group of ballooning experts are currently working on Balloon FCL (including influencing medical requirements) and a further group have worked on training organisations.  The Balloon Regulation will therefore subsequently be amended to incorporate rules for Balloon FCL, but it is not expected to incorporate Balloon Airworthiness requirements, which are already established within Part-M / Part-ML.

    Balloon Air Operations encompasses all operations of balloons, including private ballooning.  Therefore, all balloon pilots and operators will need to become familiar with the new regulation, when published, and will need to undertake whatever is required to fully comply with the rules.  Naturally, there will be a need for commercial passenger ballooning operators to make significant changes, including the preparation and submission of a completely new Operations Manual.  

    However, commercial operations operators (aerial work) will also need to lodge Declarations with their NAAs.  All balloon operators will need to comply with the requirements of Part-BAS with all commercial operators additionally needing to comply with the requirements of Part-ADD.  EASA, assisted by the ballooning expert group, will publish both guidance material and acceptable means of compliance, which will hopefully be of assistance to the ballooning sector.

    What do balloon operators need to do now?  

    Operators need to be ready for the formal publication of the Balloon Regulation and then start preparing for compliance with it at the earliest opportunity.  

    Accountable managers of commercial passenger balloon operators should provisionally allocate resources towards transition to the new requirements and be very aware that failure to fully comply with the regulation by 8 October 2019 will mean that operations will cease at that point until compliance is achieved.