WASHINGTON, D.C. (KXAN) — The Federal Aviation Administration officially implemented a rule requiring commercial balloon operators to have a second-class medical certificate, according to a release from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
This comes more than six years after 16 lives were lost when a hot air balloon, whose pilot was under the influence, crashed into a power line in Lockhart.
In the fall of 2018, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Cruz both worked on bipartisan legislation to require medical and physical exams for commercial balloon pilots. The act was signed into law in October 2018. The law gave the FAA 180 days to work those requirements into its regulation.
In November 2021, the FAA proposed a rule that addressed the requirements of the act, a spokesperson for the FAA said. That rule was officially implemented this month, according to Cruz.
Following the deadly hot air balloon crash that took place in Lockhart, Texas back in 2016, I made it my mission to advocate for increased, preventative safety provisions for commercial balloons. In order to prevent the recurrence of a tragic event like this, I worked to pass the bipartisan Commercial Balloon Pilot Safety Act as part of the FAA Reauthorization, which stipulated that commercial hot air balloon operators must have a second-class medical certificate, just like what is required of other pilots.
Rules like this will help to make sure the tragedy in Lockhart never happens again, and I am proud to have led the fight to make commercial hot air balloons safer for future riders and operators.Sen. Ted Cruz
In July, Doggett pushed for the FAA to implement the rule, saying it had delayed it and ignored safety experts. He also said the National Transportation Safety Board found the FAA’s lack of a medical certificate contributed to the Lockhart crash on July 30, 2016.
Doggett shared the following statement in response to the implementation of the rule:
Almost six and a half years after the Lockhart tragedy from an impaired pilot, a full four years after passage of our law to ensure such tragedies cannot repeat, now, the law is finally in full force. The FAA inexcusably delayed and delayed for years, even after we wrote this requirement into a law, which was explicit. Now, thankfully, we finally have action.
Passage of my passenger safety bill was the result of the dedicated work of the families and all who petitioned for this belated action. For the many who prayed and mourned the loss resulting from this unnecessary tragedy, know that you have been heard. We cannot bring these precious lives back. But, now that this is finally implemented, we hope no more families will be exposed to the horror of a crash from an impaired pilot.Rep. Lloyd Doggett
The full text of the rule can be read online.