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Fossil BS: Ballooning tragedy in NZ (22) RE: BS: Ballooning tragedy in NZ 08 Jan 12

Many years back, I was a passenger on the "Gerard A. Heieken", at the time the world's largest balloon, on one of its very rare 'free' flights (it was usually flown on a tether). It was a fabulous experience, but on landing, I well remember seeing a HT power line pass a few feet below the basket before we touched down.

I feel very sad for the people and families involved in this tragedy.

Reading between the lines of the newspaper report this morning, it would seem that the balloon did hit power cables first, then sparks must have ignited some of the propane (big balloons like that carry a LOT of propane). The resulting gust of hot air would have caused the balloon to ascend uncontrollably while the fire got a proper hold, eventually consuming the whole thing and causing the subsequent plummet to the ground. The flight was apparently captured on several films and videos, so the investigation should be conclusive.

No reason that I can see for anyone to decline to go up in a balloon, go skydiving, or any other aviation sport. I'd do it in a heartbeat. A very sad accident, but no reflection on the general safety of such flights, nor any reason I can see for more stringent legislation.

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