Tougher Balloon Safety Rules Urged

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Canada’s Transportation Safety Board says in a report hot air balloons that carry passengers for hire should have safety standards equal to those required for other types of aircraft that fly commercially. “While balloons can carry up to 12 fare-paying passengers, they are not regulated at a level comparable to that of other commercial aircraft operators,” the report said. “The TSB recommends [that the] Department of Transport ensure that passenger-carrying commercial balloon operations provide a level of safety equivalent to that established for other aircraft of equal passenger-carrying capacity.” The board made its recommendation after completing an investigation into a balloon accident in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last August in which the pilot and two passengers were severely burned and other passengers were less seriously injured in a landing accident.

The wind had picked up unexpectedly when the pilot of the balloon, which was carrying 11 passengers, tried to set it down. The wind dragged the basket on its side for 700 feet and the burners struck the ground. That caused a propane leak that resulted in an intense fire and several explosions. The TSB is still investigating a fatal balloon accident that happened in Surrey, British Columbia, two weeks after the Winnipeg mishap. In the Surrey accident, a fire started while the balloon was still tethered. As the 12 passengers and pilot fled the basket, the tethers burned through and the lightened balloon shot into the air with two people still on board. Both burned to death.