Federal agency urged FAA to regulate hot air balloons

CAROLINE, VA (WWBT) - Just one month before a fatal hot air balloon crash in Caroline County, the federal government was calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate hot air balloon tours.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) database, the US averages about 13 hot air balloon crashes each year. Since 1964, 114 people have died in 67 incidents.

Just last month, home video captured a hot air balloon crashing into power lines in Indiana. Miraculously, none of the six people on board were seriously injured.

The NTSB has been watching the hot air balloon industry closely, analyzing data for months. On April 7, almost exactly one month before the tragedy in Doswell, the NTSB issued a letter to the FAA urging the agency to take action.

In her letter, the chairwoman said,  "The NTSB believes that air tour balloon operators should be subject to greater regulatory oversight," similar to what is provided for passengers of helicopters and planes.

The letter noted that the United States had not had a recent major balloon disaster, but pointed to last year's fire on a balloon in Egypt that killed 19 of the 21 passengers on board.

A review of federal records shows wind, trees, power lines and buildings were all causes in many of the more serious balloon crashes in this country.

The Balloon Federation of America, a group that lobbies on behalf of the hot air balloon industry, issued a statement last month calling the NTSB recommendations "unnecessary and burdensome."

The NTSB asked the FAA to respond to its letter and recommendations by July.

Both agencies are now looking into the tragedy in Doswell.

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