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NBC Bay Area Investigates Safety of Hot Air Balloons

By Kelly Balamuth on August 31, 2012

There are a number of ways to enjoy the beautiful scenes and sights of Northern California, and one popular way is taking a hot air balloon ride. Summer is peak season for this fun means of travel, and Napa and Sonoma Counties in Wine Country have the highest concentrations of commercial hot air balloon operators in the United States because of the excellent year-round weather. With the popularity of this summer-sky activity, the NBC Bay Area investigative unit examined the safety of the hot air balloon industry.

Data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows that 1,350 people have been hurt while on a hot air balloon since 1964, with 73 people nationally and seven people in California losing their lives in this type of accident. Four of these fatal accidents happened in the greater Bay Area, including Morgan Hill, Davis, and Yountville. However, pilots say that the number of accidents is low relative to the number of passengers taken up in the air, noting that in the past 30 years, there has been more than seven times the amount of skydiving accidents than hot air balloon accidents.

As far as the causes of hot air balloon accidents, NBC Bay Area discovered that wind was to blame, either being the main cause or a contributing factor, in more than half of all accidents investigated by the NTSB in California. The NTSB investigations also revealed that pilot error or bad judgment was the most common reason for California hot air balloon accidents.

Though commercial pilots must pass strict federal standards and equipment must be inspected every 100 hours of flight time, accidents can still occur, so it is essential riders inspect a hot air balloon company before being airborne. A member of the Balloon Federation of America suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about the company, asking for pilot references, asking about the age of the equipment and when it was last inspected, and inquiring about insurance.

The Walnut Creek personal injury attorneys of Balamuth Law know that there are a number of ways an accident can occur, whether on the road, in the air, or at work, and have been committed to protecting the rights of injury accident victims for many years. If you have been injured in any type of accident that was caused by the negligence of another party, please contact our legal team for help obtaining the compensation you need to recover. Schedule your free consultation by calling (888) 254-1234.

Attorney Kelly Balamuth was profiled in the
September 2013 Issue of Plaintiff Magazine.

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