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Balloon Fire In Egypt Fatally Injures 19

Aircraft Was Carrying 20 Tourists, Was Landing When Accident Occurred

A fire aboard a hot-air balloon in Egypt has fatally injured at least 19 of the 20 tourists who were on board, and led to a suspension of balloon flights in the country.

The Associated Press reports that the aircraft was landing after a flight over a town in the southern part of the country. An investigator from the state prosecutor's office who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media said that the balloon climbed rapidly before a fire of unknown origin caused an explosion in a gas container, and it fell some 1,000 feet into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabba, a  village just west of the town of Luxor.

Reuters reports that, according to balloon flight operations spokesman Ahmed Aboud, one tourist and the pilot survived the accident. The fatalities included tourists from France, Britain, Belgium, Hungary, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Ballooning is said to be a popular activity for tourists visiting Luxor, which is about 320 miles south of Cairo. The tours give a view of the Valley of the Kings which includes Tutankhamun's tomb.

The number of fatal injuries makes the accident the deadliest in the region. Sixteen tourists were killed in 2009 when a balloon impacted a cell phone transmission tower near the city.

The Balloon Federation of America released a statement saying the orgnaizatino is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident in Egypt and the accompanying
loss of life.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the statment said. "Hot air ballooning is man’s oldest form of flight and is an activity enjoyed safely by thousands of people of all ages and walks of life around the world. As in any form of transportation – whether driving a car or crossing the road – it is impossible to eliminate all risk. Sadly one such instance occurred today in Egypt."

Balloons in the U.S. are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Rules and Regulations, just like other forms of aviation. These regulations (FARs) set the requirements for pilot training and safety inspectionsof our aircraft.

These regulations include:

  • All hot air balloons operated in the U.S. must be inspected annually or every 100 hours of flight time if operated commercially – whichever is less.
  • Student pilot training includes appropriate emergency procedures and a student must demonstrate proficiency in these procedures in order to earn a Lighter-than-Air pilot certificate from the FAA.
  •  Pilots are required to successfully complete to a flight review, to include emergency procedures, by a licensed‘inspector’ pilot every two years.

The Balloon Federation of America is the official national aero club for all balloonists, hot air and gas, in the United States. Safety education and training is a constant priority. As such, the BFA sanctions annual safety seminars across the United States and encourages pilot participation in these and other forms of recurrent training. The BFA also includes a Ride Operator’s Division in its membership that promotes the networking and sharing of safe practices by operators in the unique business of providing balloon sightseeing tour flights.

The BFA says it is confident that the responsible investigatory agencies will determine the cause of this tragic accident and will immediately share with our membership any information that might be discovered as it relates to the safe continued operations of hot air balloons in the United States.

FMI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Civil_Aviation_(Egypt), www.bfa.net

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