Balloon checks

February 24th, 2012 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

Seamus Boyer at Stuff reports:

Balloonists have rejected as “unnecessary” calls for an urgent maintenance review of all hot-air balloons after an investigation into the Carterton disaster.

The investigation found the balloon should not have been in the air on January 7, when it crashed killing all 11 people in it.

The burners and LPG fuel system had not been correctly inspected, the balloon material had not been properly strength-tested, and a safety logbook was left incomplete, preliminary findings from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission show.

Though it is not yet known if these oversights caused the crash, they meant the balloon may have been in breach of Civil Aviation Authority standards, and therefore not “airworthy”.

The commission has recommended that the CAA make urgent checks on the maintenance of all 74 balloons in the country – a move that balloon operators have labelled as unnecessary and “knee-jerk”. …

Balloon Aviation Association president Martyn Stacey described the recommendation as a “knee-jerk reaction”.

“I’m getting calls from balloonists all over the country worrying if their balloons are safe. They’re saying it might have an effect on customers, and that is a worry.”

Ummm I think 11 people dying is what has had the effect on customers, and made people worry about whether their balloons are safe. I certainly would never fly in a balloon again in NZ, until the full report from the accident investigators is known, and I am confident any factors in the crash could not occur elsewhere.

The Balloon Aviation Association should see the recommendation as an opportunity to restore confidence in their industry, rather than an attitude of “We’re all right Jack”.

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14 Responses to “Balloon checks”

  1. Cobolt (82 comments) says:

    Can you imagine what would happen if an airline said “we don’t need checks” when directed by the CAA on the preliminary findings of an investigation?
    Balloonists are in exactly the same league as airlines in this instance and their reluctance to spend on these checks makes me wonder what else do they shirk on paying for.

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  2. Peter (1,578 comments) says:

    Given their reaction to further safety inspections, I wouldn’t even be happy to stand under one. It doesn’t sound to me as if they put customer safety first.

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  3. Longknives (4,455 comments) says:

    Christ they aren’t doing themselves any favours here….I’d have thought they would want a big safety ‘tick’ to get the industry up and running again?

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  4. RRM (9,451 comments) says:

    Funnily enough, people DO get a bit worked up when they see 11 people plummeting out of the sky in a ball of fire…

    Yes it is a knee-jerk. But it sounds like one that is well worth doing. If there’s an environment out there where it’s possible for an operator to just not do the required safety checks that he’s supposed to, and he can carry on operating regardless, then how can we have confidence in the next operator to be any different?

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  5. aitkenmike (94 comments) says:

    I bet balloonists that perform their maintenance and safety checks regularly are fuming at this response from their association, which certainly has the potential to scare away customers.

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  6. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    CAA should prosecute. Let the courts decide on the apparent failure to comply with the rules.

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  7. Viking2 (11,128 comments) says:

    Bah what rot.
    So you wouldn’t get in car either would you. After all a warrant check is a snap shot of condition every 12 months never mind how the car is treated in between.

    Ask anyone who deals with CAA what they are like before you give them any marks for ability.

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  8. RRM (9,451 comments) says:

    ^^^I might think twice before getting in a car if I saw it had a WoF from 2009, and I knew the driver would be taking me over the Rimutaka Hill at 160km/h with a bunch of propane tanks in the back… ;-)

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  9. V (668 comments) says:

    If someone described a hot air balloon by saying look I’m going to take you up into the sky in a massive sack of nylon powered by two propane burner flames, and by the way hop into a massive wicker basket and stand by the propane tanks, you would really question whether its a good idea to begin with.

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  10. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    Viking, you an ALPA member perchance?

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  11. Viking2 (11,128 comments) says:

    What’s ALPA?

    Not one of you would look at any certificate in a lift, a truck , a bus or anything else. Most of you wouldn’t even read a Health Certificate from the Council when you went to but your food even though its os posted ina prominent place.
    Even if you did you would accept that it is current and all is good and yet in 11 months and 30 days a lot can change.
    CAA is the same outfit that is full of ex Air Force ground engineers who argue with aircraft engineers that spend their lives fixing planes. Its the same outfit that just sacked one of their inspectors for bullshit reports.

    Old boys air force network and long overdue for the knife, just like MFAT.

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  12. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    The guy who made the “I wouldn’t have gone up” comment was TAIC. Given his comments this surely will be referred to the CAA law enforcment unit. And its not their job to determine if the law has been broken, that’s up to the courts.

    Would also note the comissioners comments don’t seem to be in line with TAIC mission statement; “The principal purpose of the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission (the Commission) is “to determine the circumstances and causes of accidents and incidents with a view to avoiding similar occurrences in the future, rather than to ascribe blame to any person” (Transport Accident Investigation Commission Act 1990).”

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  13. markra (200 comments) says:

    I am certain the cause will be due to negligence of the pilot, or fault with the balloon. Either way the company are at fault. My theory on this is that because the day was humid and hot, and with the loading of the number of people, the balloon had trouble getting height away from power lines. Every Aviator knows that when these conditions exist your aircraft will have trouble ascending and be sluggish. Either way , I believe the CAA will find fault with the Pilot, who of course paid the ultimate price. Although the price he paid is part of the job he does and he knows the risk. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for his customers.
    It is clear that this is a case of saving(or making more) money at the expense of safety, ie. if they had left a couple of people out of the basket, they would not have had problems clearing power lines.
    This was a similar reason behind the Skydiving crash at Fox Glacier in 2011, killing 9. Most people in the industry will claim other factors however, if CAA thought this was the case, they wouldn’t have issued an urgent directive to cut number of passengers onboard.
    There are a lot of shonky operators out their, the adventure Tourism industry is not well monitored in this country and is loose with it’s standards. ie. what happening in reality is not what CAA thinks is happening.
    Good on CAA issuing an immediate directive. If you can’t afford to be safe, then you shouldn’t be in the business.

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  14. markra (200 comments) says:

    Viking2. You are making a lot of assumptions here. I do read the safety certifications when practical as I am sure other people do.

    Especially when their life is heavily riding on it. I have worked in adventure aviation(Skydiving) and from experience customers are very interested in the safety aspect before participating. They often will ask a lot of questions about how safe the adventure they are going to participate in is. The operators have a duty of care to ensure that the service is up to appropriate standards, CAA and manufactures specs, to make the dangerous activity as SAFE AS POSSIBLE

    A lot of these checks and certifications are impractical for a lay person to sight, so we rely on the appropriate authorities checking to ensure that the service we use is safe. That’s what he have the CAA, NZTA and other government agencies for. Your reasoning then no one should complain unless they have read safety certifications before riding is ridiculous and uninformed. Aviation safety documents are not readily available for the public to see, nor would they likely understand or know about all the necessary certifications necessary that make a service safe.( aviation is far more certified than a driving a car and rightly so, athough looking at the road toll merits changes )

    I agree that CAA could lift their game, (no doubt about it, read comments above)

    To compare adventure aviation which includes riding in a balloon with jumping in a car shows your ignorance of the distinction and the issues involved.

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