The FAA has offered balloonists operating in and around Albuquerque a temporary exemption from current ADS-B equipage requirements while a longer-term arrangement is being devised. As we reported earlier, operators in the unofficial “balloon capital of the world” complained that the ADS-B rules were keeping them out of airspace they’d been using for passenger flights for decades and that the equipage requirements threatened the annual balloon festival in October. The requirement that ADS-B be hard-wired into an aircraft electrical system precludes installation in aircraft, like balloons, that don’t have electrical systems. Balloons were therefore prevented from using controlled airspace in which ADS-B is required.
Under the deal announced on Wednesday, balloon operators will need to sign a letter that outlines safety requirements for operating in Albuquerque airspace. Signing the letter exempts operators from the ADS-B rule for a year, by which time the FAA intends to have come up with a permanent solution. “We recognize the important role that hot air ballooning plays in New Mexico’s culture. The FAA has reached an agreement that enables balloon pilots to continue flying safely in the region while we work on a long-term solution,” FAA Regional Administrator Rob Lowe said in a statement.