Balloonists stress safety of flying

CAROLINE, VA (WWBT) - Gripping images of the fatal hot air balloon accident last week in Caroline County tell only part of story that may be lost with the three lives on board. Recent reports say that the pilot Dan Kirk may have not known power lines were an issued because of the map he was using.

Fellow balloon pilot Liana Haseltine has over 20 years of flying experience. She says pilots use the best maps that they feel are necessary.

"Some fly with a GPS, some fly with an iPad tracking on Google Earth and following along. Some will use the sectional, which is the FAA issued map that shows airspace restrictions and obstacles."

Haseltine and her husband are full-time balloon pilots based in Charlottesville. While they were not at the Midatlantic Festival last weekend, Haseltine said pilots are sometime given FAA sectional maps for unfamiliar areas.

The use of that map is at the discretion of the balloon pilot.

"Others may use a paper map, which may show terrain. It may show roads. It depends on the map just how much detail there is. Lots of tools are available," Haseltine said.

It is not known what tools Dan Kirk used last Friday night, or if he was given a map of the area. It's been five days since the crash, and still the gondola and balloon have yet to be located.

For potential clients, Haseltine said she has gotten a lot of calls from future riders since the accident happened. She offers them all reassurance.   "If there is anything that looks like it is going to cause unfavorable conditions, or if there is anything that could be potentially perceived as unsafe about any given flight, you just don't fly," she said.

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