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Balloon Operators Reject NTSB Recommendation

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The Balloon Federation of America is rejecting an NTSB recommendation that the FAA assume direct oversight of commercial balloon ride operations. Last week the NTSB recommended the FAA require all fly-for-hire balloon operations be covered by a Letter of Authorization as a means to improve safety. The move was prompted by its investigation of three accidents, one of which killed the balloon pilot. It also coincided with the YouTube release of a spectacular but injury-free incident in Indiana in which a balloon with seven people aboard shorted out power lines. The BFA says mandatory oversight is the wrong approach. 

BFA Chairman Scott Appelman said in a news release that requiring an LOA for operators "will not improve safety, will prove burdensome to both the industry and the FAA, and is unnecessary given the BFA's recent initiatives in this arena and its ongoing safety education programs." Appelman said his group has conducted its own safety awareness programs for 30 years and recently established a Balloon Ride Operators Division to address the specific issues of that sector. He said that rather than impose oversight on an already overburdened FAA, his group would like to work with government agencies to improve safety. "The BFA, and its Balloon Ride Operators Division, stands ready to work in partnership with the NTSB and the FAA to develop and implement qualitative programs that will achieve enhanced safety for balloon pilots, crew, and the flying public without adding unnecessary and burdensome regulation," Appelman wrote in his release.

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