Balloons still safe despite Luxor crash, expert says

Mar 4, 2013 | News

By Kollin Lore
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A deadly hot air balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt caught fire after a gas explosion and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing 19 foreign nationals according to the CBC.

The casualties included tourists from France, Britain, Belgium, Hungary, Japan, and Hong Kong, with only the pilot and a British tourist surviving, said Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad in a statement to the Associated Press.

The Toronto Star reports that hot air ballooning is popular in Luxor, as it gives tourists a view of temples and desert valleys.

However, today’s incident is not the first in a series of accidents including one in which 16 people were hurt in a crash in April 2009 reports the Guardian.

Following the incident, tourists will no longer be able to take part in the pastime, as balloons have been banned in Luxor, reports the Times of India.

However, Graham Rawlinson, the founder and owner of Skyward Balloons in Toronto, said the crash should not make people fear hot air balloons.

“When you look at safety, hot air balloon flights are probably the safest activities in the aviation industry,” he told Humber News.

Rawlinson, who has over thirty years of flying experience on aircrafts and balloons, brought up an incident in Vancouver a few years ago where two people were killed in a hot air balloon crash, but these instances in Canada are as few as plane crashes.

Rawlinson said rules and standards vary from country to country.

In Canada, balloons cannot be used without being inspected by an approved inspector or engineer of Transport Canada, and companies have to go through scheduled maintenance on their equipment every year, said Rawlinson.

Overall, it really depends on understand the company an adventurer picks.
Ernie Lee, the co-founder and chief pilot of Not Just Hot Air! told Humber Radio that most companies in Canada are safe.

In Luxor, Alaa Mahmoud, sales manager for Magic Horizons, a balloon company in the city not related to the incident, told The Guardian that some companies employed relatively inexperienced pilots.

Mahmoud also said foreign tour operators only carried out checks on the balloon companies they worked with.