New FAA regulations for hot air balloon pilots

Permits for flying in public lands are not being issued in Arizona this year, so hot-air balloon companies are getting creative.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 1:40 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Hot air balloon pilots will now need medical certificates to fly, much like any other airline pilot.

This regulation follows a deadly hot air balloon crash that happened 6 years ago in Lockhart, Texas, a town east of Austin. An investigation determined the pilot was under the influence before crashing into power lines, killing all 16 on board. “Passengers can now rest, assured that commercial balloon pilots must meet the same strict medical requirements as other commercial pilots,” said acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen.

This certificate is a signed document from a doctor stating the pilot is in good enough health to fly. Previously, commercial balloon pilots were exempt from a medical requirement. In the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Congress directed the FAA to revise the medical certification standards for commercial balloon pilots.

Rainbow Ryders in the north Valley said they’ve been making this a requirement for their own pilots for years. They said they felt as thought this was a move in the right director for the industry and will help bring more assurance to people who are looking to ride in a hot air balloon.