Hot air balloon regulations unchanged despite deadly crash

One of the last photos taken of the hot air balloon before it crashed in a field near Lockhart. July 30, 2016. Sarita Gutierrez says she took the photo around 7:35 a.m., minutes before the crash. (Courtesy: Sarita Gutierrez)
One of the last photos taken of the hot air balloon before it crashed in a field near Lockhart. July 30, 2016. Sarita Gutierrez says she took the photo around 7:35 a.m., minutes before the crash. (Courtesy: Sarita Gutierrez)

LOCKHART, Texas (KXAN) — The Federal Aviation Administration says they do not have plans to change regulations for hot air balloons even after 16 people died in a crash.

In August, Representative Lloyd Doggett asked the agency to make changes after the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history. 16 people were killed on July 30 when the balloon hit power lines and crashed in Lockhart.

Representative Doggett says the National Transportation Safety Board has been asking the FAA to make changes in their oversights since April of 2014. He says they’ve refused to do so twice now.


In-Depth Coverage: Lockhart Balloon Crash


“The NTSB went back said this is unacceptable, if you don’t act people will die, and the FAA failed to act and people did die in Caldwell county,” said Doggett.

Doggett, along with the NTSB, wants hot air balloons to have the same regulations as helicopter and airplane tour operators.

Skip Nichols, the pilot who died in a hot air balloon crash near Lockhart on July 30, 2016 (Facebook Photo)
Skip Nichols, the pilot who died in a hot air balloon crash near Lockhart on July 30, 2016 (Facebook Photo)

The Federal Aviation Administration was alerted to the drunk driving history of Alfred “Skip” Nichols, the balloon pilot who died with his 15 passengers, and the agency investigated Nichols in 2013, according to records obtained by KXAN.

Unlike airplane pilots, balloon pilots are not required to hold a FAA medical certificate, which is the paperwork that requires the disclosure of offenses like a DWI, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

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