24 Feb 2013

Father wants tougher checks on balloon pilots

8:09 am on 24 February 2013

The father of a young woman who died in the Carterton balloon disaster wants stricter policing of pilots' medical certificates.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has revealed pilot Lance Hopping should not have been flying the balloon as his medical certificate had expired about six weeks before the crash last year.

The balloon he was flying with 10 passengers on board plummeted to the ground in flames after hitting a power line in January 2012.

The medical certificate is checked by a flight examiner every two years and aviation rules dictate it is the responsibility of the pilot to keep it current.

Allan Still, whose 19-year-old daughter Alexis died in the crash, says the certificate needs to be checked more regularly. "There should be some follow-up on behalf of CAA to ensure pilots are abiding by that regulation."

Balloon Aviation Association president Martyn Stacey said it is unacceptable the pilot did not have a current certificate and rules have been tightened to try to stop it happening again.

While it is the pilot's responsibility to keep their certificate up to date, Mr Stacey said a new rule introduced last year means the pilot's employer is now also responsible for checking that certification.

"In other words the onus is on the pilot and the company to ensure that the pilot has got his medical certificates in order to fly a commercial operation."