Experimental Balloonists Gather In Amherst

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About 17 homebuilt hot-air balloons and 50-some pilots and friends gathered in Amherst, Mass., recently for the third annual Experimental Lighter-than-Air (XLTA) fly-in. The event is hosted by Dan Nachbar, who has been developing an unusual "personal blimp" that he calls Alberto, which has attracted considerable attention. The craft is designed for pure pleasure flying, and Nachbar has petitioned the FAA to review its requirement that he must have an airship pilot's certificate to carry passengers. "We argued (very reasonably in my own humble opinion) that the FAA's airship rating is focused on managing a pressurized, helium aircraft and that it is kind of silly to require it for Alberto because it is neither pressurized nor uses helium," says Nachbar. The FAA says it has reviewed his request and made a decision, but is not ready to reveal that decision yet, Nachbar said. Pictures of the blimp and the other aircraft, including "mass ascension" photos, can be found at the XLTA Web site.