Foreign Pilots Okayed For Albuquerque Fiesta

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Every October, Albuquerque, N.M., hosts its biggest event of the year -- the International Balloon Fiesta, which this year almost lost its "international" element, thanks to a recent ruling by the FAA that would have grounded many foreign pilots. On Thursday, Fiesta officials said they had secured a waiver from the FAA from a regulation, issued earlier this month, that says foreign pilots must pass a flight review before being allowed to fly in U.S. airspace. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, to certify all of the 40-some foreign pilots expected to participate in time for this year's Fiesta, which will be held October 4 - 12. New Mexico's congressional delegation appealed to Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who exempted hot-air and gas-balloon pilots from the rule. The Fiesta this year also will launch a wine-tasting festival to coincide with the 2003 America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race, and is adding a holiday fiesta December 3-31 with fireworks, balloon-glow events, and light displays.