Insightful News

We are an addiction for those who love reading.

Insightful News

Families of Lockhart balloon crash victims pressure White House for changes

Last summer, 15 people died at the hands of a hot-air balloon pilot flying on a cocktail of medications near Lockhart. The Federal Aviation Administration was warned a tragedy like this could happen, but it did nothing. Read an investigation into the hot air balloon crash and how families are coping on our subscriber website,

Family members of 15 passengers who died on a Central Texas hot air balloon tour, flown by a pilot on a cocktail of drugs, launched a petition drive Wednesday to improve oversight of commercial ballooning.

“It is important we do not let our loved ones die in vain,” said Patricia Morgan, the mother and grandmother of two victims, Lorilee and Paige Brabson, of San Antonio.

The petition on calls on the Trump administration “to ensure all tour passengers have oversight and the same safety benefits as passengers of helicopter and airline tour operations.”

It needs 100,000 signatures in 30 days to get a White House response.

Photo: Courtesy Janis Stewart, Janis Stewart

Brent Jones, from left, Sunday Rowan and Matt Rowan hold Brent and Sunday’s son, Jett. They took the family photo two weeks before a hot air balloon crash killed Matt, Sunday and 14 other people near Lockhart, Texas. The FAA failed to heed warnings about the pilot. The Rowans’ surviving family members want the FAA to enact rules to prevent another tragedy.

Brent Jones, from left, Sunday Rowan and Matt Rowan hold Brent and…

FAA oversight has largely focused on inspections at major ballooning events. Advocates have proposed more inspections of tour operators plus medical checks that could weed out pilots such as Alfred “Skip” Nichols, who had conditions and prescriptions that could have disqualified him from flying.

Nichols, 49, and all of his passengers died when the balloon crashed into power lines and burned July 30 near Lockhart. He had a “witch’s brew” of drugs in his system, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board found.

Fog and clouds were in the area, and other commercial balloon pilots testified to the NTSB that they never would have flown that day. Newly released photos recovered from passengers’ phones show increasing cloudiness during the flight. The crash itself was not captured in the images.

Nichols infamously brushed off warnings about the weather that morning, saying during a weather briefing that he darts through clouds: “We find a hole, and we go.”

Other commercial balloon operators had warned the FAA about Nichols and alerted officials that he lied about his history of alcohol convictions on government forms, but he was allowed to continue flying. The FAA’s own experts had warned that a crash like this might happen if the agency didn’t tighten rules on an industry flying ever-larger balloons capable of carrying more passengers.

RELATED: Lockhart crash’s grieving families to FAA: Don’t let it happen again

About 134 balloons are capable of carrying 12 or more people, out of nearly 4,400 balloons in the FAA registry.

If it decides to change ballooning rules, which have gone largely untouched since the 1930s, the agency will face steep resistance from an industry that has declining accident rates, but still has twice the crash rate of general aviation. Not counting the Lockhart crash, there have been at least 60 hot air balloon crashes in the United States since 2011, leading to seven deaths.

The NTSB is expected to conclude its investigation and issue recommendations to the FAA this year. In 2015, the FAA rejected an NTSB recommendation that balloon operators would have to obtain a “letter of authorization” that would, among other things, notify the FAA about the operation, increase the chances for inspections and mandate drug tests for pilots.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *