NTSB Urges FAA Oversight of Sightseeing Balloon Operators

The board recommended that FAA assume oversight of sightseeing balloon operators, in the same way that it oversees airplane and helicopter tour operators.

Citing three hard landings that resulted in injuries and one fatality, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued recommendations that FAA assume oversight of sightseeing balloon operators, in the same way that it oversees airplane and helicopter tour operators. Commercial air tour balloon operators would be motivated to step up their safety practices, ensure pilots are certificated and undergo required competency evaluations, and conduct passenger safety briefings and flight planning if they, too, were required by 14 CFR 91.147 to obtain a letter of authorization from the nearest FAA flight standards district office to their base of operations, according to the safety board.

The three hard landings cited in NTSB's April 7 letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta are an April 2013 incident in Chester Springs, Pa., in which three of the 10 passengers aboard were seriously injured; a May 2007 incident; and a September 2008 incident in which a fire occurred and the pilot was killed.

The board's chair, Deborah A.P. Hersman, and the other four board members concurred in the recommendations. Hersman is leaving NTSB later this month to serve as the National Safety Council's president.

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