It is a common and beautiful sight in Nebraska to see hot air balloons overhead. Many people considering rides are now more apprehensive after last month’s deadly balloon accident in Texas that killed 16 people with the balloon hit power lines. Rich Jaworski is the president of the Nebraska Balloon Club and says piloting and riding in balloons is exciting and thrilling but there are dangers.
Jaworski says, “You put a basket with human life in it up in the air it is subject to any obstruction on the surface. It is subject to any pilot error or it is also subject to any failures of the equipment itself. Those three elements are what make the activity exciting and also sometimes hazardous.”
Jaworski says balloon pilots need a private license that includes six hours of instruction and then several hours of solo time. For a commercial license you need six to ten hours of more instruction, pass a test and then go through a check ride.
Balloons are governed by the FAA just like any other aircraft. Jaworski says all balloons must go through an inspection before they can be licensed to fly.
Jaworski says those wanting to take a ride should ask some important questions. He says it is a good idea to ask the pilot how much flight they have and when they last flew. It is also a good idea to ask what kind of experience they have with the particular balloon you are interested in riding in.