Saturday, January 07, 2012

Canberrans defend their sport's safety

ACT balloon pilots have defended the safety of hot-air ballooning, more than a decade on from the last accident in Canberra.

Balloons Aloft managing director Ewan Roberts said hot-air ballooning was a very safe form of transport.

''We've had no deaths from ballooning in Canberra,'' he said.

''Some private operators have gotten into trouble and produced some minor injuries, but commercially there have been no incidents.''

Mr Roberts, a pilot of 16 years, credited the clean slate to a focus on safety with well trained and experienced pilots who erred on the side of caution when dealing with poor weather.

''We'll obviously be watching for all the reports that come out of this accident and see if there's anything we can learn,'' he said.

Three people were hospitalised in 2001 after jumping from a hot air balloon that had caught alight shortly after take-off in Canberra.

The 50-year-old pilot, 45-year-old male passenger and his 15-year-old daughter jumped from the craft after the basket caught alight while in Evatt.

The hot air balloon exploded shortly after and the trio was taken to the Canberra Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Professional Ballooning Association of Australia and the Australian Ballooning Federation say a report on the New Zealand disaster that killed 11 people will help boost safety across the industry. ''The incident is currently being investigated by the New Zealand authorities. We will await their findings,'' the groups said.

''We will scrutinise their report to see if any further improvements can be made to enhance the safety of Australian operations.''

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also passed on her sympathies to the victims' families.

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