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US requires hot air balloon pilots to pass medical exams


WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators require pilots of hot air balloons carrying paying passengers to pass an annual medical examination, similar to the requirements for pilots of commercial planes and helicopters.

The FAA adopted a long-delayed final rule on Wednesday. This includes medical certification requirements, including inspection by an FAA-approved inspector.

Congress approved the requirements in 2018 and directed the FAA to adopt a rule detailing the requirements by spring of 2019.

Balloon pilots have long been exempt from this requirement. The FAA instead followed voluntary guidelines set by industry groups. However, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended ending the exemption.

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Safety committee members criticized FAA After the crash in Texas in 2016 It was the deadliest hot air balloon accident in U.S. history, killing all 16 people on board. Investigators determined that the pilot was disabled, possibly by various medications, when he flew onto the power line. Not good,” he wrote.

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the safety committee at the time, questioned why the FAA, instead of tightening regulations, approved voluntary requirements drawn up by balloon industry trade associations.

Last November, the FAA announced a proposal to require medical certification. About 200 people and groups commented before the agency issued the final rule.

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