Interview with Hans Akerstedt, Recipient of the 2015 FAI Gold Air Medal

2015 FAI Awards Ceremony 37The FAI Gold Air Medal is, together with the FAI Gold Space Medal, the highest award of the Federation. It is reserved for those who have contributed greatly to the development of aeronautics by their activities, work, achievements, initiative or devotion to the cause of Aviation.

It has been awarded this year to Hans Akerstedt from Sweden (pictured left signing the FAI Gold Book) for his active role in the progress of aeronautics through his involvement and dedication to Ballooning. The medal was presented to him at the 2015 FAI Awards Ceremony of the 109th FAI General Conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Akerstedt, 73, is one of the world's greatest specialists on aviation and ballooning history. His outstanding technical and historical knowledge is completed by a solid aviation background as a balloonist, a pilot for the Swedish Air Force and an SAS captain. His devotion to ballooning is exceptional as he has been volunteering within the FAI Ballooning Commission (CIA) for the last 42 years, holding several positions from Delegate to Subcommittee Chairman and Vice President. He has given his name to the Akerstedt formulas that he developed for the scoring and ranking of ballooning competitions. He is also well known for creating and updating the List of Notable Performances and Achievements whose aim is to save for the future reliable references to flights or activities. Considered as an authority by the ballooning community, he is often involved in technical assessment and record ratification for which his opinion is highly regarded. Furthermore, his activities also include competitions: he participated in the organisation of the 1st FAI European Ballooning Championship in Skovde, Sweden in 1976 and the fourth World Hot Air Ballooning Championship in Sweden in 1979. He competed at the World Hot Air Balloon Championship in 1973 and seven times in the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett between 1984 and 2003.

Hans Akerstedt within the FAI Ballooning Commission:

  • Active since 1974
  • Delegate for Sweden - 42 years
  • Secretary - 6 years, 1982-1987
  • 3rd Vice President - 2 years, 1999 & 2002
  • 2nd Vice President - 3 years, 2000, 2001 and 2003
  • 1st Vice President - 23 years, 1988 - 2015, except 5 years when he was 2nd and 3rd Vice President
  • Acting President: 1 year, 1998

What keeps your passion for ballooning activities alive?

Hans Akerstedt: Ballooning is a very friendly sport. I meet old friends all over the world. I also meet new friends at events every year, which makes the network of enthusiasts always grow. I also enjoy working for better and fairer rules for competitions.

Which piece of advice would you, as the recipient of FAI Gold Air Medal, give to any young people willing to start an air sport?

Try any air sport. You may then become a "multi sporter" or concentrate on one sport. Whatever you choose, you will find enthusiasts and people willing to share their experience with you.

Why did you choose to get involved in the FAI Ballooning Commission?

I was asked to be a CIA delegate in 1973 to work for better championship rules after the 1st FAI World Championship. I was reelected year after year for 23 years as CIA 1st Vice President because I don’t hesitate to speak up when necessary. I am known for being critical when rules are not as they should be and need modifications.

What does FAI mean to you?

For the last two weeks, I have been working 25/7 as a volunteer, which is both serious work and fun. FAI is the world organisation for all air sports built on old traditions but continuously developing to fit today's demands.

Which aviation projects are you currently working on?

Writing the history of airships in Sweden from 1912 until today.

Which challenges ballooning will face in the future?

Overregulation, bureaucracy and increasing costs. But we see the light at the end of a long tunnel. The authorities are now aware of the effects of the current regulations. Furthermore, the average age of the pilots is increasing with one year every year in some air sports. That trend has to be reversed. Reducing overregulation and costs is one way forward. I know that the will to welcome young people in local clubs is there.

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