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Sun, Nov 20, 2022

Over-Reaction? FAA Mandates Medical Requirements for Commercial Balloon Pilots

Previously, Commercial Balloon Pilots Were Exempt From The Medical Requirement

After negative media attention following a somewhat unique 2016 commercial balloon ride accident, the FAA has adopted a final rule requiring commercial hot-air balloon pilots to hold medical certificates when flying paying passengers.

The rule mandates a second-class medical certificate, the same standard required for other commercial pilots.

“Passengers can now rest assured that commercial balloon pilots must meet the same strict medical requirements as other commercial pilots," said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen.

Previously, commercial balloon pilots were exempt from the medical requirement. In the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Congress directed the FAA to revise the medical certification standards for commercial balloon pilots.

The rule also addresses a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that the FAA remove the exemption.

The FAA in recent years took steps to increase the safety of hot-air-balloon tourism by working with the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) on an accreditation program.

The program includes voluntary standards for pilots and operators and offers multiple tiers of BFA safety accreditation.

Many in the ballooning community see this as more regulatory over-reaction... possibly along the lines of what occurred following the tragic Colgan Air accident which has significantly raised the requirements for those working in today's scheduled airline cockpits.

The additional regs and requirements have created havoc as a result of an attendant shortage of qualified aviators needed to fill those seats, due to greatly increased flight time requirements.

The FAA published a proposed rule last November and reviewed approximately 200 public comments before issuing the final rule.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.bfa.net

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