As Questions Remain After Hot Air Balloon Disaster, How You Can Stay Safe
There are many dangers involved when taking to the skies in a hot air balloon, and the worst case scenario played out as 16 passengers perished in a doomed Texas ride over the weekend.
Inside Edition took a flight in a similar craft operated by Magical Adventures Balloon Rides near San Diego, California. The flight was to show how fun and safe the ride can be when piloted properly and professionally.
It was the first time up in the sky in a balloon for all of the passengers. None were deterred from taking the ride by the disaster.
Before liftoff, pilot Dennis Barrett demonstrated the safety procedures that are routine on hot air balloon flights.
Passengers in a balloon may feel like they don't have a care in the world, but they are given extensive safety training before and during the flight.
The biggest danger to hot air balloons comes from overhead power lines. Barrett has 19 years of experience as a pilot and instructor and knew the route that he took with Inside Edition.
“I know where the big the power lines are right alone Rancho California Road,” he said.
The hot air balloon that crashed near Austin, Texas, hit power lines that were about five stories tall. The crowded basket was incinerated. Why the balloon was flying so low is still a mystery.
Barrett said: “What you have to do is watch for the poles. Then you can you see where the power lines are.”
The pilot must keep the basket level, which is vitally important to the safety of the passengers onboard.
For anyone looking to take a hot air balloon ride, Barrett has the following pieces of advice: "Don't buy tickets from a discount organization. Make sure your operator is a member of the Balloon Federation of America."
The 49-year-old pilot of the ill-fated balloon, Skip Nichols, had a record of four drunken driving offenses and had served two prison sentences. He was banned from driving but incredibly was still able to keep his balloon pilot's license.