Hot Air Balloon Rides Not Always Safe

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Hot-air balloon rides offer an exhilarating experience. Passengers can feel turbulence as the burners and air currents carry the balloons aloft. Balloons can climb more than 1,000 feet as passengers absorb stunning views of valleys, cityscapes, farmlands and mountains. For instance, a passenger in Yuba City, Calif., can see Mt. Shasta, the highest peak in Northern California, more than 100 miles away; such a view is rare from the ground in Yuba City.

You can participate in hot-air balloon rides in festivities in Albuquerque, N.M., Temecula, Calif., and elsewhere. Some businesses and amusement parks offer hot-air balloon rides, as well. Many plan hot-air balloon rides for a milestone anniversary, graduation present or another memorable occasion. The Rotary Club in one small town in Arizona revived a balloon festival in conjunction with an annual event featuring carnival rides, a midway and other activities to mark the anniversary of the community’s incorporation in 1978.

However, are hot-air balloon rides safe? Hotairballoonaccidents.com tries to answer the question. It contrasts fatalities and accidents involving hot-air balloon rides with fixed- and rotary-wing aviation. The site reports that hot-air balloon rides have an annual rate of 20 accidents vs. 1,900 accidents for general aviation aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a 68-page report reviewing civil aviation accidents from 2007-2009, and stated balloons accounted for about half of the sightseeing accidents, with fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters splitting the other half. Most balloon accidents involved non-fatal hard landings. The NTSB investigates accidents involving balloons, and the Federal Aviation Administration regulates balloons and their pilots.

A collision with a power line triggered a hot-air balloon accident that killed the pilot and two women passengers in May 2014 in Caroline County, Va. The balloon struck a power line, and the gondola burst into flames, according to news reports. The incident happened after several hot-air balloons took off from Meadow Event Park. The balloon launch was part of a preview of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which began a day later.

If you or other members of your family are injured—or even killed—from a hot-air balloon crash or mishap, closely follow the NTSB investigation. If the investigation determines the pilot did not follow regulations or acted negligently in other ways, consider seeking a personal injury attorney who will help you move forward with settling your case.