Born, 21st November 1783 – Dead 2020
After some 231 years the aircraft that enabled man to take to the heavens is dying. It will be a slow drawn out process bringing pain and frustrations to all the flight crews and spectators that love seeing these beautiful aircraft sail in the winds overhead.
So what is it that brings about it’s demise. It’s not that it’s not popular. Every fine day you will see balloons full of happy punters rise with the Sun in many regions around Australia. Technology hasn’t rendered it obsolete. In fact new burners, baskets and fabrics have made ballooning both safer and more fun.
So what is it that is killing it off? It’s the one thing that balloonist rely on the most, landing sites. And the frustrating thing is that there is not much the balloonist can do about it. The main problem confronting us hasn’t arisen through any fault of the pilot and crew. It is a rare occasion where a balloon causes property or livestock damage that will give cause to upset a landowner.
It’s death is coming about through two things. The first is Occupational Health & Safety (OHS). Every business is subject to OHS regulations and it’s been a good thing. There are many more healthy people strolling around thanks to it. But more and more we come across landowners that just get freaked out about it. Everything is suddenly seen as a possible claim which will close down there business and have them sued out of house and home. Of course it’s rubbish but no amount of talking or letters from our Insurers stating that they will never be held liable will change their minds.
The second problem we see more and more of is plain god awful people. Now you can sort of understand a landowner being concerned that as a result of your balloon landing gently in his grass paddock he may somehow lay claim to all worldly possession’s and his beautiful daughters but there is really no excuse for some of the receptions a friendly bunch of aeronauts receive far to often these days.
Why is all this happening? Well the OHS problem has come about through government regulation and we all know that bureaucrats have a knack of making the simplest things impossible, expensive and unworkable. Is there a way for us balloonist to get around it, I very much doubt it. Fear has been used very effectively to both prosecute and regulate Health & Safety to the detriment of common sense. If you spend all your time seeing danger, that’s all you will see. As a result many landowners just tell us not to use their land.
The problem of confronting grumpy, sometime aggressive landowners isn’t anything new. Not everyone is happy about you dropping in on them unannounced. But it’s the nature of this beast which relies on the wind for it’s speed and direction. We are always meeting new people but these days we are meeting a higher percentage of the, not so nice variety.
It doesn’t seem to be a phenomenon unique to ballooning. Everywhere you go on this big island and no matter what your doing you seem to meet more and more people who have the shits.
And for what reason! Best ask an expert that one. My guess is that after years of listening to doom & gloom from our leaders and the media people just aren’t that happy anymore no matter what good their situation is. So snap out of it Australia and lets get back to being the happy country we used to be. At least if these guys are happy I’ll still have a few places to land.
Ballooning used to take me and my passengers away from all the worries in the world. These days it seems to take us to them.