New FAA regulation not requiring a GPS tracker for hot air balloons

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Federal Aviation Administration announced it will not require an expensive piece of technology that would have affected pilots at Balloon Fiesta.

Scott Appelman, President and CEO of Rainbow Ryders Ballooning Company, became one of the most important liaisons between the ballooning community and the FAA. In months of meetings, they found a solution to a problem that discouraged many pilots.

“I’m thrilled to death that we actually pulled it off, you know, when we tried to work with the government on the FAA. Those are big mountains for individuals and a small industry to work with effectively,” Appelman said.

Appelman and several others have worked over the past few years to change a number of controversial regulations issued by the FAA.

The FAA required balloons to have special GPS technology on board when flying in Class C airspace.

“The biggest challenge, particularly for recreational ballooning, it and ballooning in general, is the cost of equipment, if any. That can currently cost anywhere from $3 to $5,000 per additional balloon,” Appelman said.

Appelman says the FAA has not been clear on guidelines for balloonists to comply with the rule, and that almost all of Albuquerque is in Class C airspace.

“The small disruption we had to deal with probably cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. Because we couldn’t fly in the area because we didn’t want to break any rules,” Appelman said.

But now their balloons are flying a little higher following a new FAA decision.

“Essentially, what came out was that there was no inherent risk or no mid-air collision involving a balloon and a fixed-wing aircraft. So the group as a whole decided to continue monitoring the situation, collecting data and seeing if there’s a reason to address this,” Appelman said.

Balloonists can now fly in class C airspace with a declaration of consent.

“It’s great to understand the expectations, the rules, and also all the new relationships that we’ve developed with air traffic control and the FAA,” Appelman said.

Appelman says pilots can now fly in Class C airspace with a declaration of consent. He says that in the meantime, the FAA is continuing research on the subject.

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