FAA announces Com Balloon medical requirement (and BasicMed Easter egg)

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Brad Z, Nov 2, 2021.

  1. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Following the 2016 Heart of Texas accident killing 15 passengers plus the pilot, the FAA has announced a second class medical certificate for balloon pilots conducting commercial balloon operations. Flight instruction is excepted.

    Also of interest to this group, the rule includes a technical amendment that expands BasicMed to safety pilots not acting as PIC.

    The text of the rule is linked in the press release, and comments will open after it hits the federal register.

    https://www.faa.gov/newsroom/faa-proposes-medical-requirements-commercial-hot-air-balloon-pilots
     
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  2. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    “This proposed rule would ensure that balloon pilots meet the same medical requirements as pilots of other commercial aircraft.”

    Honestly, I don't see how this would have prevented that particular accident. Also, how does the FAA propose to enforce this? Do we really, really expect FAA inspectors to get up at the crack of dawn and go ramp check any of these balloon operators?
     
  3. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Congress mandated the medical requirement. The NPRM discusses how the medical certificate requirement might have addressed the accident pilot’s medical history.

    As far as enforcement, surveillance is difficult because the FAA doesn’t have a good handle on who is conducting operations and who isn’t because balloon operators are not required to obtain an LOA unlike airplane and helicopter sightseeing operations. This is also discussed in the NPRM.
     
  4. Robert Gee

    Robert Gee Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'd bet dollars to donuts that it was written and pushed by an insurance lobbyist not a concerned legislator or public outcry.
    That was a lot of liability eggs in one basket.
     
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  5. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    It was pushed by the families of the victims, who pushed Ted Cruz to include this provision in the 2018 Reauthorization bill. Most of the large balloon operators already have medically certificated pilots because insurance required it. Notice that the pilot of the June Albuquerque fatal accident held a medical certificate (albeit his toxicology revealed cocaine and marijuana in his system). Some of these commercial balloons can carry 20+ passengers.
     
  6. Walboy

    Walboy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You would think you learn about this from AOPA, not by reading through post about commercial balloon ops.

    upload_2021-11-2_13-35-55.png
     
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  7. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    AOPA did not have advanced knowledge of this.
     
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  8. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That sounds like a huge failure to me.
     
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  9. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    I've been following the chatter around this NPRM for a while since I've been taking Hot Air lessons this year. Never saw anything relating to it that had anything to do with BasicMed.
     
  10. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You can’t know what’s in it unless it passes.
     
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  11. Half Fast

    Half Fast Touchdown! Greaser!

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    But I’m sure they’ll take credit for it....
     
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  12. kmacht

    kmacht Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Enforcement won’t be by ramp checks. This is a typical cover your *** rule by the FAA. They just need something to point to when there is the next accident and the public starts asking questions. “He was flying illegally”. “Our rules say he should have had a 2nd class medical”.
     
  13. aftCG

    aftCG Line Up and Wait

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    The same way that making all FOs have their ATP would have prevented the Colgan Air 3407 crash. [It won't]
     
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  14. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    You wouldn't. Internal FAA sausage making. The BasicMed provision was a technical amendment added in.
     
  15. Todd82

    Todd82 Line Up and Wait

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    Not that I pay any attention to the balloon world (just DGAF) but I can't believe that basically the equivalent of balloon part 135 required no medical when privately flying a plane with a certificated gross of >1320lb by yourself requires at least Basic Med. That's shocking to me.
     
  16. idahoflier

    idahoflier Cleared for Takeoff

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    Kudos to the FAA for fixing the BasicMed Safety Pilot oversight...
     
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  17. Initial Fix

    Initial Fix Line Up and Wait

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    It’s open for public comments. The only way to effect a change is to comment
     
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  18. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    The events surrounding the Heart of Texas accident are well documented. For this NPRM I pored through the entire NTSB accident document, reviewed the entire hearing transcripts multiple times. The operator was definitely what one might describe as a fly-by-night operator. I’m not entirely sure the medical certification system would have grounded him, but due to the lack of an 91.147 LOA requirement he was completely off of the FAA’s radar. The financial incentive to make a bad judgement call when you have 15 passengers lined up to pay a couple hundred dollars each is great. Sometimes just knowing the FAA is watching is enough to encourage operators to make better decisions. While expanding 91.147 to apply to balloon operators was not a congressional directive, it is something that has to be considered, and the NPRM specifically asks for comment on requiring such a requirement for commercial balloon operators like we do for airplane and helicopter air tours.
     
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  19. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    The NTSB white paper after the Lockhart crash is a really good read too.
     
  20. mryan75

    mryan75 Pattern Altitude

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    He also had a not insignificant drug bust in his past as well, if I remember correctly, which most certainly would have prevented him from getting a second class had it been required.
     
  21. BladeSlap

    BladeSlap Ejection Handle Pulled

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    That’s the long standing #1 cause of death in GA, is the FAAs position that if he had a better medical he wouldn’t have flown into IMC, or could have seen through the clouds?

    I have a 1st class, my girlfriend doesn’t even have a medical, we both equally can’t see anything in fog.

    http://www.kathrynsreport.com/2016/07/fatal-accident-occurred-july-30-2016-in.html?m=1


    The more I read on these subjects my concern is

    1 The FAA is weaponizing the medicals, don’t like a pilot but he’s not breaking any rules, just go after him medically even with no diagnosis of any medical problem

    2 Encroachment with plenty of restrictions under the name of safety, when I was doing my flight training we had a few foreign students, it was amazing to hear how restricted and how much of a elite only activity flying is in their home nations, someone like me would have never been able to fly there, I don’t even think my current boss would have been able to start up or run his tour company in those countries.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
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  22. Lindberg

    Lindberg Final Approach

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    There was so much illegal about that flight that this rule wouldn't have affected the outcome, but there was also outrage that some of it wasn't more illegal.
     
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  23. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    does this have any impact for a CFII? Or have they all just been the official PIC and worked around it?
     
  24. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Exercising flight instructor privileges and serving as a safety pilot are two separate things. Often, CFIs and CFI-Is Will do both simultaneously.

    Usually, a CFI-I conducting instrument instruction acts as PIC...but they aren't required to act as PIC if the operation doesn't require it (such as training a PP under VFR). This would allow BasicMed instructors to let the trainee act as PIC even if the trainee is wearing a view limiting device.
     
  25. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack En-Route

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    Seems to me he was the kind of guy who didn't care about the rules. A new rule most certainly wouldn't have stopped him and he would only have been on their radar if he told the truth on his application.

    We already have rules in place that he chose to ignore... like flying in IFR conditions. I was in the same area as him that morning and a bunch of us were supposed to fly and had to call it off. It was difficult to even drive to the airport it was so foggy.

    Nobody is held 100% responsible for their actions anymore, mostly because if you make more people liable, there are more people to sue. The NFL player who is in the news now for a car crash was driving 156mph with a blood alcohol limit of over twice the legal limit. He caused the accident, but they'll say GM shouldn't make a Corvette that can go 156mph, Top Golf shouldn't have served him so much, and the NFL should have better control of their adult employees. In the mean time, the justice system is doing their part by allowing the player to post a $150K bond... you know, a millionaire who has shown he's responsible!
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2021
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  26. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    I encourage you submit a comment to the docket and share that feedback with the FAA.
     
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  27. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    That's an interesting one, and I wonder how it will impact things. When we were working on our balloon ratings briefly, we found a lot of hostility from dedicated balloonists trying to enter as fixed/rotor-wingers. One thing we were told was that many balloonists can't get medicals and that's why the balloon, so they end up resenting those who can get/have medicals.

    While I think many of us agree that the medical process isn't ideal for a lot of reasons, I think enforcement ends up being not as difficult as it might seem. Balloons are essentially stationary objects with little ground speed. Easy to take pictures of and distinctive. Easy to snap a picture of, even if you don't get the N-number, and identify who owns it. Commercial operations are usually fairly public.

    I won't comment on whether this regulation makes sense since I haven't read it or about the accident, but it is interesting.
     
  28. BladeSlap

    BladeSlap Ejection Handle Pulled

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    We are taking about a government entity here, the FAA.

    Talking about a government action without mentioning politics, we’ll that’s like talking about the horse races, but don’t talk about horses.
     
  29. PPC1052

    PPC1052 Final Approach

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    I get that but there's no need for snarky partisan attacks that really have nothing to do with the topic at hand. What the hell does Cancun have to do with this topic? This is exactly what leads to the bickering that was intended to be prevented by closing the spin zone.
     
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  30. Jeff Oslick

    Jeff Oslick En-Route

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    This is nothing new. Read up on Bob Hoover.
     
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  31. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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  32. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    How so? While I think the alphabet groups (EAA, SPA, NBAA, GAMA, AOPA, etc) are great assets to aviation and do a lot of good, the FAA is under no obligation to announce anything to them before making a public announcement.
     
  33. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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  34. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I feel safer already.
     
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  35. TCABM

    TCABM En-Route

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    Whoever slipped the BasicMed safety pilot fix in there needs a merit step increase.
     
  36. Salty

    Salty Touchdown! Greaser!

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    They've probably already been forced to resign.
     
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  37. 3393RP

    3393RP En-Route

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    Since the February 2021 freeze I have puzzled over the resentment towards Cruz for not being in Texas. He had no legal responsibilities and could not have taken any actions that would have changed anything.
     
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  38. WDD

    WDD En-Route

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    So, how would this accident have been prevented by the operator having a 2nd class? He flew into power lines. Did he have poor eyesight, impaired cognitive abilities, suicidal tendencies, etc.? Not a rhetorical question, I'm just unaware of the reasoning.
     
  39. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    The link below is NTSB’s findings, so you can see how they connected the dots between a lack of medical certificate requirement and the accident.
    https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AAR1703.pdf
     
  40. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Funny. I got into a brief argument on another forum with someone months ago who insisted the FAA wasn't allowed to do that.