04 Apr 2023

2023 CIA Plenary Meeting: Impressions of First Timer – Full of passion! Ballooning future is here in Switzerland!

By: Katsura Endo (Japan,Alternate Delegate), PMR S.C. member, hot air balloon pilot
With support by Hiromi Furukawa (Japan) PMR, Officials S.C. member, hot air balloon pilot  

The 2023 FAI Ballooning Commission (CIA) Plenary Meeting was held in Rüegsau, Switzerland from 15 to 18 March. It was held at the headquarters of Blaser Swisslube AG.

How could participants expect this nice and friendly atmosphere at meetings to be turned into such a memorable, unforgettable event ever!

Actually this is the first attendance for me, Katsura Endo, as a CIA Alternate Delegate for Japan. And the first time being at the CIA Plenary meeting since in Tokyo when on 11 March 2011, Japan experienced the strongest earthquake in its recorded history.

I will never forget how CIA participants were so kind and respectful to others after the 6 minutes of earthquake that caused the massive disaster in the country they were visiting.  At the same time, they well knowing what they need to achieve for our Ballooning world during such a difficult time.

These warm respectful feelings came up again in Switzerland.

Warm welcomed by croissants! Photo credit: Katsura Endo

Sub Committee, Working Groups, Bureaus, and Board meetings

I think these subject matter meetings are one of the most important activities for FAI/CIA Pre-Plenary.

On the first morning, 15th March, I observed the discussions at the AX-Rules working group of the CIA Rules Sub-committee (SC), led by Uwe Schneider (GER). Every member was very active in the discussions and tried to create better ways for the competition rules which were being changed and reviewed in many orders and wordings.

At the end of the meeting, as they went out of the meeting room, some people spoke to me with comments like “Welcome!” and “How was the meeting to you?”  Sorry, I could not answer with more details because the meeting contents were sometimes difficult to keep up with during this first year!  But, surely it was very, very interesting because I realized the rules are under review by the people who actually use them.

Discussion at the AX-Rules Working Group prior to the Rules S.C. Photo credit: Katsura Endo

Next I attended the PMR (Public & Media Relations) SC meeting (IN PERSON!)

One of the special things was for me to attend this PMR meeting in-person, not via Zoom, and meet the PMR team including new PMR members and meeting observers.

Since I joined this PMR team in 2019, our chair Debbie Spaeth (USA) always encouraged the team to be active, share something new from our ballooning region and making our own stories to be published for the FAI-CIA official site.

This is somewhat amazing to me because normally my country’s stories rarely get into the English news among Air sports/Ballooning media. You can imagine how Japanese balloonists were excited to see their own stories and faces on the FAI official site!

On the other hand, because of the language hurdle and simply my level of its usage, Debbie helped my writing before the stories are published. Checked draft has come and gone to get the story just right for our audience. I appreciate it as she respects my own color of expression which come out from my personality and thoughts. So, I am very happy to see her in the meeting room, and chat in-person, finally! Thanks Debbie!

PMR presentation by Debbie Spaeth, Chair, in the Plenary. Photo credit: Katsura Endo

After every Subcommittee reaches decisions, all issues are to be presented in front of Delegates on the next day, at the CIA Plenary on March 17th-18th.

Coffee and Lunchroom

Special thanks to our hosts, Blaser Swisslube, (and their catering team) who offered coffee breaks, lunch, welcome party with cocktails and dinner, and bus transportation to a cheese factory tour followed by fondue dinner.  This hospitality saved everyone time looking for lunch in the town and gave us more time for networking with attendees. 

Every meal was delicious. Soups were just marvelous! But during the coffee breaks, I couldn’t stop myself from reaching for a tasty croissants from the basket!  Again, thanks to the team at Blaser for the welcoming coffee breaks, drinks and meals.

Special dinner night, conversations continued everywhere!
Photo credit – Hiromi Furukawa

It was truly good to meet and talk with people from other countries, and discuss how our daily ballooning life is the same as well as different. There are huge things that I could learn and think about from these conversations. For instance, when some people talk about their Balloon Club, that means a local Balloon community which sometimes organize competition events in that area, and it often needs to find sponsors to support the event.  This was a different approach to me as in Japan major balloon competitions are usually organized by a ballooning event company with local governmental alignment which is targeting many sightseeing visitors in that area.

Agenda of CIA Plenary and related documents uploaded in the last minute

After wrapping up each Subcommittee and Working Group meeting, all Chairs edited their minutes and uploaded to the internal cloud. That must be tough job to fit in between the FULL meeting schedule and, of course, the fascinating social events!

The meeting of 2023 CIA Plenary. Photo credit: Eunyoung Roh

CIA Bureau at Front Table. Photo credit: Blaser Swisslube/MyPhotobutler Armin

Anyhow, we were gathered in the Plenary meeting room, and the roll call for every delegate and alternate delegate had begun. In the meeting, Delegates listen to each presentation, discuss details, and then vote on the motions related to Subcommittee work. Passing the resolutions were made with solemn consideration.  I was impressed with the professional procedures.

A highlight of the event was the welcome by Mr. Peter Blaser, the respected balloonist who has been a legendary figure in this wonderful balloon world. I am so glad to be beside him and listening to the conversations of the people who came to greet Mr.Blaser.

At the end of the Plenary, our retiring delegate, Sabu Ichiyoshi, who had been enthusiastically working as CIA Delegate for Japan, and a member of various subcommittees since first attendance at CIA Plenary in 1976 in Paris, gave a speech.  He spoke of passing the delegate job to the next generation of Japan ballooning, Hiromori Soejima. Everybody at the room stood up and honored him, that was a very touching moment to me.

Ballooning In Switzerland!

One of the greatest experiences in this year’s Plenary must be THIS!!

We were offered the opportunity for a balloon ride in the Blaser’s balloons and flew over Rüegsau and Bern district.

Thanks so much to the Blaser family, David Strasmann and their ballooning team for giving us this memorable opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view of Swiss Alps over Bern district.

Moreover, it was so much fun being a member of the amazing international teams in each basket!

Beautiful view over Rüegsau and Bern district, thank you so much David Strasmann. Photo credit: Katsura Endo

I can say, the eyes of everyone were bright when we were assembling the equipment- The burner with poles on the basket; Attaching the balloon to the basket; and holding the crown rope, watching all their teamwork was a truly happy moment to me.

Flights were so fantastic. It was a great addition to the meeting as the participants that are leading this balloon community in the world, had a chance to enjoy flights together, celebrating our sport. Even after landing we kept laughing, even as the envelope wanted to escape beyond the confines of its’ bag.

Because all of us are enthusiastic balloonists, we knew what to do and shared this experience.

The 2023 CIA Plenary meeting was over, and very successful.  Now I know that the Plenary stands atop  piles of tiny details & big projects which aim to make our sport of ballooning better and happier.  And to see it continued into the future!  

Photo credit: Eunyoung Roh

Top picture: Group photo with Blaser Balloon in front of the headquarters of Blaser Swisslube A.G. Credit: David Strasmann