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Ballooning still safe, industry says

Published: 7:46PM Saturday January 07, 2012 Source: ONE News

  • Martyn Stacey (Source: ONE News)
    Martyn Stacey - Source: ONE News

The sport of hot air ballooning has been thrust into the spotlight with the death of 11 people in the Wairarapa.

The tragedy has raised questions over safety but industry experts insist it is still one of the safest airborne activities.

The president of the Hot Air Ballooning Association says it is a safe form of flying but could also be a wake-up call for people to refresh what they are doing and go through the processes they use.

"This is one out of the books," Martyn Stacey said.

"Internationally, the amount of accidents in ballooning is very, very minimal compared to other forms of aviation."

Today's accident is just the third fatal incident in more than 100 years of ballooning in New Zealand and the first since 1995 when three Japanese tourists were killed off the coast of Christchurch. Another fatal crash occurred in the 1890s.

"The organisation's got itself well and truly sorted these days and any sort of accident in the ballooning world is very, very rare," Stacey said.

"It's quite a shock and it's just something we have to learn from and go forward and improve ourselves somehow."

Hot air ballooning is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). All pilots and balloons must be licensed and are subject to the same rules as aeroplanes.

"Hot air balloons like any other aircraft cover the same maintenance regulations that the CAA give out," said Stacey. "The aircraft's the same as any other aircraft. It has first aid and firefighting equipment on board. It's the same as any other civilian or commercial aeroplane."

And like any other air accident this one will be the subject of very close scrutiny.

Police are working with the CAA and an air accident investigator to establish what went wrong.

Stacey says that whatever is discovered balloonists need to put in place strategies that stop such a tragedy happening again.