A319 Tangles With ‘Pyrotechnics Balloon’ Landing In Bogota


Colombian officials politely asked people to refrain from flying balloons, possibly packed with explosives, near airports just before a bizarre collision at Bogota Airport. A Bianca Airlines A319 had just touched down on a flight from Orlando on New Year’s Eve when it became entangled with yards of streamers and plastic from what authorities described as a “pyrotechnics balloon.” The crew was able to roll out safely trailing the shiny streamers, some of which tangled in an engine and the gear. Launching fireworks from balloons is apparently a popular way to blow in the New Year in Colombia. It’s not clear if the balloon still had its payload of fireworks. 

The country’s Civil Aeronautics Authority apparently saw the potential for trouble and issued a cautionary statement an hour before the incident. “Your contribution adds to the security in the country’s air operations. Remember that the use and launch of balloons near airports affects the safety of air operations and travelers,” the tweet said. The plane wasn’t damaged and the airline hasn’t commented other than to clarify that the collision happened after touchdown and not in flight as some early reports suggested. No one was hurt.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What appears as thoughtlessness is quite often ignorance with out mal intent. Humans are designed to operate in small tribes or groups, with population sizes of 50 or less. In populations of that size, “automatic” behavior “naturally” accommodates others within that small tribe. When humans are in a large social structure, the new norm of human culture today, it is impossible to know the majority of people. When that occurs, all sorts of behaviors emerge…such as routinely “not thinking of others”, because the consequences of individual behavior are removed or abstracted. Instead of learning from one’s close peers, consequences are abstracted in the form of impersonal laws within religious and governmental institutions. In short, we can expect behaviors that endanger others to continue until the species evolves to naturally accommodate living in large anonymous social structures.

    • Perhaps your reasoning explains the behavior, but it most certainly doesn’t excuse the stupidity of the persons who launched the balloons. I would argue that it IS thoughtlessness that allows someone(s) to fly balloons loaded with explosives near the flight path of a commercial aircraft. If the individuals involved HAD thought of the possible consequences prior to launching the balloons then I would posit that they did indeed launch the balloons with mal intent. Not caring about the lives of scores of individuals falls in the ‘mal intent’ category in my book. Thus, if we disregard mal intent, I’ll go with thoughtlessness (they were warned!) with a full measure of stupidity.

      Your comment reminds me of the drivel we were handed in Sociology 101. Perhaps my reply is also from that course… or from Psych 100 (and that thought is disturbing). And perhaps I learned nothing from either course (very, very possible).

    • I submit that socially conforming behavior was no more “automatic” in the small tribal groups of yore than it is in today’s mass society. What is different is that in the tight tribal groupings social conformity was relatively simple & clearly defined, was instilled early, constantly monitored, and enforced with no-BS firmness. You either stayed within the norms or else, and the “else” wasn’t made pleasant.
      Modern societies dilute all these factors as a natural consequence of their group size and complexity, but more so in our own than in many others because of our historic emphasis on the rights of the individual over the rights of society as a whole. This bias coupled with our multicultural makeup makes agreement on common standards of behavior and enforcement difficult.

  2. Note to self: DO NOT FLY into other countries on New Years Eve or Day. Or the consequences can be deadly.