A Call to Action for New Hot Air Balloon Regulations

As many people have learned from the news this past weekend, a horrific and tragic hot air balloon accident occurred in Kyle, Texas. All passengers and the pilot aboard (16 people total) were killed. Investigators have concluded that the hot air balloon struck a power line and caught on fire. The incident is the deadliest hot air balloon crash in United States history.

Questions have begun to emerge on how this accident could have been avoided and how to prevent future accidents. One area of focus are regulations the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) declined to adopt in 2014.

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) made recommendations to the FAA in April 2014[1]. The NTSB investigated several balloon accidents and concluded there were “operational deficiencies” in commercial air tour balloon operations and was concerned with a lack of oversight. As a result of these findings, the NTSB made appropriate recommendations such as the following:

The NTSB concludes that passengers who hire air tour balloon operators should have the benefit of a similar level of safety oversight as passengers of an air tour airplane and helicopter operations.

Ultimately, the NTSB urged the FAA to amend 14 Code of Federal Regulations Section 91.147 to require balloon operators “to obtain and maintain a letter of authorization to conduct air tour flights.” (A-14-011). The NTSB noted the recommendations “are designed to prevent accidents and save lives.” Unfortunately, the FAA declined to adopt these regulations back in 2014. After the accident in Kyle, the issue has returned to the forefront. The common sense solution is to adopt appropriate rules for safety.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an aviation accident, including a hot air balloon accident, it is critical to hire experienced attorneys that know what evidence to obtain and utilize in a lawsuit. The attorneys at Fleming | Nolen | Jez, L.L.P. are happy to evaluate your case at no cost.

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