International / News

Hot air-balloon crash causes safety concerns in Wales

baloon

Courtesy image: s306.beta.photobucket.com

The hot air-balloon accident which happened past Tuesday in Luxor, Egypt, was the worst accident of this type in the last 20 years.

The balloon got on fire with twenty tourists from France, the United Kingdom and other countries on board. Nineteen of them got killed.

A spokesman from Wickers World, a hot air balloon flight in the UK, told The Archer: “This was a terrible shock for us. We are all very upset.”

This raises big issues regarding the safety standard of hot air-balloons and the risk tourists might take while getting on board.

“I am almost certain that this had to do with the pilot. He was not careful,” Wickers World spokesman said.

“My understanding is that they were manoeuvring on the ground. I think they were using a rope to try to move the balloon. A fuel line got damaged, which created a fire on board, causing the balloon to rise. A few passengers managed to jump out of the balloon but the rest went up higher and got caught,” he explained.

A spokesperson from Bailey Balloons, which runs hot air balloon flight in south Wales, said that this could never happen in the UK, where the safety standards are much higher than in Egypt.

She explained that there were standards to respect and safety checks every year. She said “the equipment is very different too.”

“We have to conduct an annual flight test, as well as a business equipment test. The crew also has a regular training,” she explained.

Wickers World spokesman confirmed that there were a lot of regulations and explained that there were three levels of licensing in the UK.

“One for the operational company licence issued by UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a pilot licence, and the balloon also has to be certified by the CAA,” he said.

He insisted that if a company or a pilot broke the rules, the authority of the CAA would instantly react. He also explained that the CAA regularly checks that the safety standards are respected.

“They could just come without having announced it, to see how a company works, or ask a passenger to take his place in the balloon.

“But they generally don’t need to do exercise that power because there is so much training anyway,” he said.

According to Wickers World spokesman, companies in the UK don’t employ a pilot without a minimum of a minimum of 100-1000 hours of experience. In Egypt, they only ask for 50 hours.

“The pilots also have to follow annual tests with a CAA examiner, and receive 1st aid training, fire training and medical training.”

He also mentioned that in the UK, for this type of air-balloon trip, there are always two pilots on board.

“In the Luxor accident, there was only one pilot leading the air-balloon,” he said.

According to him, there had only one commercial balloon flight accident in the UK, in 1997.

“I think the balloon got caught in the fog, the driver couldn’t see and hit a power cable,” he said.

These requirements and safety restrictions show how hot air-balloon travels standards are much safer and controlled in the UK.

“People are often nervous before their first hot air-balloon travel. I always tell them that the most dangerous part of their day is when they get here with their car,” quipped the Wickers World spokesman.

Coralie N’Ch

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