A commercial hot air balloon pilot, who repeatedly submitted false insurance documents to the CAA, has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay more than £20,000 costs.

Allan Nimmo, owner of Eagle Balloons, provided the CAA with false insurance certificates for each of his seven hot air balloons on three occasions, in January 2013, July 2013 and May 2014.

A minimum level of insurance is required by law for an aircraft to be officially registered and for an owner to obtain an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC), which enables an operator to carry fee-paying passengers.

The defendant's fraud was uncovered in July 2014, when a CAA Balloon Inspector asked Mr Nimmo to confirm the insurance status of three of his balloons, and he submitted scanned copies of insurance certificates.

When the CAA cross-referenced the certificates with the named insurance provider, it became clear a previous insurance policy had finished and the certificates had been forged. As a result, Mr Nimmo's AOC was suspended.

In November, at Westminster Magistrates' Court, Mr Nimmo admitted three counts of 'knowingly providing the CAA with false insurance certificates', which is contrary to the Civil Aviation (Insurance) regulations 2005.

Appearing at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday December 10, 2015, Mr Nimmo, aged 60, of Steinhousemuir, Stirlingshire, Scotland, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay CAA costs of £21,898.58.

Alison Slater, CAA prosecutor, said: “It is essential for the protection and safety of passengers and the credibility of the hot air balloon industry that operators have the appropriate insurance in place.

“This was the first case to be brought using the Civil Aviation (Insurance) Regulations and the length of the sentence and substantial fine issued, shows the significance the courts place on this type of fraud.

“The CAA will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure aviation safety laws are fully complied with and this prosecution highlights how seriously we and the courts take such breaches.”

Notes to editors

  • The Civil Aviation Authority is tasked by the Department for Transport to investigate and prosecute breaches of aviation safety rules and some aviation related consumer protection and health and safety requirements.
  • It is in the public interest that those who comply with aviation rules have confidence that those rules are enforced.
  • Prosecution is one means by which the CAA ensures that the aviation rules for which it is responsible are properly observed and appropriately enforced.
  • The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: ensuring that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.