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Wed, Dec 22, 2021

Dickson Updates Commercial Balloon Pilot Requirements

Public Comments Requested on Commercial Medical Requirement by January 18th 

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson addressed the commercial balloon industry in a short video statement, requesting public comments on the agency's proposed rules on medical certification. If finalized, the change would see that pilots operating a hot-air-balloon for hire will be required to hold second class medical certificates much like their counterparts in fixed or rotary-wing aircraft. 

"When it comes to safety, the public doesn't distinguish between those who go above and beyond the rules, and those who do the bare minimum. Or unfortunately sometimes, even less than that,” said Dickson. “While balloon accidents may not happen very often, when they do, the stakes are very high and they're in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons." He went on to reference NTSB recommendations that followed 2016's Heart of Texas accident that saw 16 fatalities in Lockheart, Texas. 

The first proposed rule would result in the removal of an exemption that has allowed commercial balloon operators to operate without holding an FAA medical certificate. "In 2018 congress mandated that change, which started a countdown clock to the second class medical rule. It's hard to disagree with their logic," he said, "the performance demands on a commercial balloon pilot and a powered aircraft pilot are very similar. Commercial pilots must be physically and mentally fit to operate their aircraft, and the second class medical is a solid starting point to make sure that's the case. Now that's the proposed rule as written, but we are always willing to listen and you have our ear right now as we go through the public comment period." 

He closed his request reminding those interested to submit their comments on the changes before the January 18, 2022 deadline. Dickson assured commenters that his agency will read through and review each one submitted. Currently, such a task is simple, with outstanding submissions fewer than 50 in all, but there are still weeks to go before the deadline. "The balloon sector is not only the longest standing aviation stakeholder community," he said, "but it's one of the most iconic in the eyes of the public and the FAA is here to support you so that it can remain so for generations." 

FMI: www.faa.gov



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