Editorial: Don’t kick the ball and say it’s okay

From the mayor of Albuquerque to U.S. senators, elected officials last week celebrated a temporary reprieve from an FAA rule that is causing serious consternation about the future of hot air ballooning in the Albuquerque area.

While important, a temporary fix just throws the box down the road. A long-term, if not permanent, resolution to the FAA’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance Device, or ADS-B, remains literally up in the air, putting the fate of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – and hot air ballooning in the metro area – in the balance. general – at the mercy of an annual waiver process.

A joint statement from several elected officials hailed the FAA’s temporary bloat waiver as “huge for New Mexico.” True. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year are at stake. All the more reason for the New Mexico congressional delegation to continue to pressure the FAA to reconsider its application of the new rule.

Specifically, the rule, which went into effect in the fall, requires aircraft using the airspace over Albuquerque to be equipped with ADS-B, a specific tracking technology designed to prevent collisions. in flight. At first glance, this seems like a laudable goal. But this poses a problem for hot air balloons because they do not have a permanent on-board electrical system into which ADS-B devices can be integrated, as the rule requires.

With no way to comply with the rule, the balloonists were understandably puzzled as to why it locks them in. For the safety ? There have been no accidents involving a balloon and an airplane in the five-decade history of the party.

And the rule affects ballooning outside of the annual two-week event, essentially banishing recreational pilots and balloon companies to West Mesa and Rio Rancho for launches, denying patrons the spectacular views of Albuquerque and the Valley of the Rio Grande.

The updated FAA policy, which will be in effect until March 2023, will allow balloonists to fly over most areas of the city if they agree to certain procedures and sign a letter of agreement confirming “that they know appropriate operating procedures in Class C airspace”. ” that surrounds Albuquerque.

But we need a permanent solution. Uncertainty hangs like a dark cloud over an industry that makes a significant contribution to the economy of our city and state.

It’s important for elected officials, the FAA, and the hot air balloon community to get past any hot air rhetoric and find that long-term solution. They have a year to do so.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.