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Aviation group probes hazard presented by tethered balloons

February 24, 2011, 03:35 pm

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is recommending the Federal Aviation Administration thoroughly evaluate the potential dangers of a defense contractor's proposal to construct a tethered balloon in Camp Verde, Arizona.

What is of major concern to the group is that the balloon's size and proximity to two general aviation airports may obstruct the view of pilots. The AOPA reports that the helium balloon, which is intended to aid with advanced camera technology, is expected to be the size of a tractor trailer and will extend 2,500 feet above the ground.

The balloons permanency is also causing alarm for the aviation group. It is intended to stay elevated in the same space all day, every day for a period of five years.

As these types of balloons are generally exempt from evaluation for obstruction issues, the above factors have influenced the AOPA to encourage the FAA to temporarily waive their exemption in order to allow public input from the aviation community.

Evidence that the group provided to aid their request were examples of two fatal plane accidents in Fullerton, California, involving pilots who struck a broadcast tower during the daytime in favorable visibility conditions.

These examples serve as a reminder that encountering physical obstructions while in flight may result in fatalities. Pilots are encouraged to have pilot insurance in case they are ever involved in such an event.  

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