10 Jul 2010

Ballooning company challenges safety grounding

5:01 pm on 10 July 2010

A Canterbury-based ballooning company that has been banned from flying says disgruntled former employees are to blame for its grounding.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has told the company Up, Up and Away that its practices are not safe and has barred it from taking passengers in its hot air balloons.

In a spot check made after complaints in recent months, the authority says the company was found to have breached several safety standards. Spokesperson Emma Peel says the CAA also found that unauthorised maintenance had been carried out.

The managing director of Up, Up and Away, Hal Tapley, says he is seeking legal advice over the CAA action which he describes as having no legal grounds.

Mr Tapley says the authority relied on statements from disgruntled former employees who have set up in competition with his company.

Authority director Steve Douglas said on Friday immediate action was necessary because passengers' safety was at risk.

He said the move to shut the company down has taken some time because under the law as it stands, ballooning companies do not have to have air operator certificates.

The notice of prohibition was served on Thursday under a section of the Civil Aviation Act that has never been used before. Consequently, Up, Up and Away is now not allowed to use any of its seven balloons.