FAA implements commercial hot air balloon safety rule after balloon crash in Texas

WASHINGTON, DC (KXAN) — The Federal Aviation Administration has officially implemented a rule requiring commercial balloon operators to have a second-class medical certificate, according to a statement from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

This comes more than six years later 16 lives were lost after a hot air balloon, whose pilot was under the influence, crashed into a power line in Lockhart.

In the fall of 2018, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Senator Cruz both worked on bipartisan legislation to require medical and physical examinations for commercial balloon pilots. The law was signed into law in October 2018. The law gave the FAA 180 days to incorporate these requirements into its regulations.

In November 2021, the FAA proposed rule that met the requirements of the law, an FAA spokesperson said. This rule was officially implemented in November 2022, according to Senator Ted Cruz.

Following the fatal hot air balloon crash that occurred in Lockhart, Texas in 2016, I made it my mission to advocate for increased preventative safety measures for commercial balloons. In order to prevent a repeat of a tragic event like this, I worked to pass the bipartisan Commercial Balloon Pilot Safety Act as part of the FAA’s reauthorization, which stated that commercial operators balloonists had to have a second-class medical certificate, just like what is required of other pilots.

Rules like these will help ensure that the Lockhart tragedy never happens again, and I’m proud to have led the fight to make commercial hot air balloons safer for future passengers and operators.

Senator Ted Cruz

In July, Doggett lobbied for the FAA to enforce the rule, saying it delayed it and ignored safety experts. He also said the National Transportation Safety Board found that the lack of an FAA medical certificate contributed to Lockhart’s crash on July 30, 2016.

The full text of the rule can be read on line.