The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declined a request by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett to increase oversight of hot air balloon operators. Doggett’s congressional district includes Lockhart, Texas, where 16 people died in a balloon crash on July 30, 2016. The crash was the most deadly hot air balloon accident in U.S. history.
Doggett had requested that the FAA institute increased safety measures recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2014. The NTSB had also followed up with the FAA on reconsidering the board’s recommendation four months before the lethal Lockhart crash.
The recommendations call for higher standards for licensing balloon pilots, air worthiness certificates for balloons and requiring operators to carry higher insurance policies.
Michael Huerta, FAA administrator, said the agency will wait for the NTSB to finish its investigation into the Lockhart crash, which could take as long as 16 months to be completed, before possibly introducing new safety measures.
Slack Davis Sanger has handled several cases involving fatal hot air balloon crashes, as well as a number of other major airline, charter, and air ambulance disasters across the country and internationally over the last 30 years. Michael Slack, Austin aviation attorney and former NASA engineer and licensed pilot, agrees that hot air balloons not only need increased oversight and scrutiny, but need to maintain an airworthiness certificate and carry a higher insurance policy.