Hot air balloon enthusiasts appear to be calling on the FAA to find a way for them to comply with ADS-B requirements beyond seeking waivers for special events. According to the Albuquerque Journal, industry leaders in the unofficial capital city of the sport say implementation of the ADS-B mandate threatens the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and limited flight options and they’re worried there will be a withering effect on the city’s status. “This will be terminal to the industry, the sport and (the) culture that Albuquerque has been made world-famous for,” Scott Appelman, of Rainbow Ryders, told the Journal. The issue has also caught the attention of New Mexico’s congressional delegation which has pledged to take it to Washington.
Late Sunday, the FAA issued a statement saying that it had heard the concerns and was working on the issues. “The FAA has determined that large events such as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will not be affected due to advanced planning, waivers, Notice to Air Missions and other mitigations for a large airshow. The FAA is leading a cross-organizational workgroup to explore possible solutions to other concerns relating to balloon flights in the ABQ area.”
At issue is the requirement that ADS-B Out transmitters be hardwired into the aircraft’s electrical system and balloons don’t have electrical systems. Appelman said that means the rule “doesn’t apply to hot air balloons. And they have no solution for it.” Before ADS-B, balloons carried Mode C transponders as required for operating in airspace that required it. The FAA granted a waiver for participants for last year’s Balloon Fiesta and organizers are hoping for the same consideration this year, the event’s 50th anniversary. In the meantime local operators like Appelman say the ADS-B mandate is preventing them from showing customers some of the most interesting views of the city and from going above 2,000 feet where they do fly. “People have always seen balloons flying over Albuquerque and over Downtown, and those days are done with this new regulation,” Murray Conrad, owner of World Balloon, told the Journal.