Hot air balloon pilots are not required to pass any type of drug screening or medical exam before flying passengers
Federal legislation introduced in June 2017 would make it mandatory for hot air balloon pilots to undergo drug testing and medical exams comparable to commercial airline pilots.
The bill, which was introduced by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, comes about one year after the deadliest hot air balloon accident in American history, in which 16 people were killed when their balloon struck power lines, burst into flames, and crashed to the ground in Texas. Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovered that the pilot in the accident had a dangerous mixture of drugs in his system, including oxycodone, Valium, Prozac, and others at the time of the crash. He reportedly also suffered from several unreported medical conditions.
FAA Officials Have Argued against Medical Exams for Hot Air Balloon Pilots
As the San Antonio Express-News reports, federal agencies and the hot air balloon industry have pushed back against attempts to impose more regulations on hot air balloons and their pilots. “The Balloon Federation of America and officials with the Federal Aviation Administration have argued that medical exams and drug tests for balloon pilots are costly and unnecessary, given the low number of balloon flights compared to other types of aircraft.”
Under current law, hot air balloon pilots are not required to pass any type of drug screening or medical exam before flying passengers.
Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the NTSB, has stated, “It really is alarming that this pilot was able to hang out a shingle and fly people for hire.”
More Hot Air Balloon Accidents Following Fatal Texas Crash
Sadly, the Texas crash is not the only recent hot air balloon incident involving power lines. In July 2017, a hot air balloon crashed near Walt Disney World in Florida, injuring almost two dozen people. According to a CBS News report, “The pilot and 16 passengers, including children, sustained non-life threatening injuries in the crash.” Reports state that the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing due to high winds. The company that operated the balloon ride released a statement claiming that the pilot’s decision stemmed from the risk of making contact with power lines. The statement read in part: “A change of wind direction at ground level just before touchdown meant the pilot was forced to make a question decision — risk contact with powerlines, or land the balloon in a nearby retention pond.”
In a separate hot air balloon incident in Canada in May 2017, a man had just proposed to his girlfriend when their hot air balloon lost altitude and crashed into a tree. No one was hurt in the crash.
In yet another incident in Illinois in May 2017, a collision between two hot air balloons left a man dangling from the basket of one balloon. The balloons reportedly collided during takeoff due to high winds. Media reports state the man recovered from his injuries in the hospital.
New York airline accident lawyer Jonathan C. Reiter. T: 212-736-0979.
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.