As we enter the summer months and as lockdown restrictions continue to ease, leisure activities such as flying hot air balloons are likely to become more of a common sight in the sky, particularly in the South West where the region plays host to Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons, the Bristol balloon Fiesta.
Whilst they might look peaceful at dawn or dusk, what do CLA members need to know should a hot air balloon land, or indeed take-off, from your holding. Rural Adviser, Elliot Hutt, seeks to clarify some of the complexities regarding this matter.
For a hot air balloon to take off from your land, the ballooning company or pilot would require your permission in order to drive onto, and use, the land to set up and take off.
It may be that a farmer is in a “hot spot” for hot air balloons due to proximity to desirable locations such as landmarks or towns and cities. It may be worthwhile for a farmer to make contact with the local club and create an agreement for future take offs. This will, in turn, strengthen relationships between farmers and pilots and make it easier for local farmers to understand what to do if there is an example to follow.
As stated in the British Balloon and Airship club’s Code of Conduct for Farmers and Pilots, pilots should “Select a landing that should cause the least possible inconvenience to the farmer”.
For example, if a pilot has the choice of either landing in a livestock or an arable field then the pilot should look to aim for the arable as it is normally easier for damage to be assessed and set out the compensation that follows. Emphasis should also be on the pilot being extra vigilant in spring and summer months when large areas of the countryside are covered in standing crops, and livestock have young in the fields which are easily spooked.
Compensation for farmers
The costs of landing a hot air balloon should be settled reasonably, including any damage that may have been caused. This can be done through insurance, which all pilots should possess to be able to fly.
However, in most cases it can normally be dealt with by mutual agreement between the pilot and the farmer. A statement of facts and photographic evidence explaining what has gone on with regards to costs of using a farmers land and any damage is useful if it is to be settled at a later date.
Furthermore, farmers should not impound the balloon or stop the pilot from retrieving the balloon once landing has been agreed. Alongside this if the pilot asks for help on retrieving the balloon then the farmer should be reimbursed at a reasonable rate if they have incurred any expenses in doing so.
Members may find it useful to familiarise themselves with the guidance published by the British Balloon and Airship Club or contact the regional office for further advice.