Balloonist in Topeka talks about recent hot air balloon tragedy in Texas


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Investigators are still trying to find out what caused a hot air balloon to crash in Texas that killed 16 people on Saturday. The crash has many questioning the safety of hot air ballooning.

Chris Tantillo owns Sail Away Adventures in Topeka. A hot air balloon company that allows people to take a ride high in the skies above Northeast Kansas. But the recent tragedy has left him with questions.

“The ballooning community worldwide is just heartbroken,” Chris Tantillo, Commercial Pilot for Sail Away Adventures said.

Investigators say the hot air balloon crash in Texas was because the balloon ran into power lines. Statistically, hot air balloons are the safest aircraft people can fly, but Tantillo says accidents may happen, but are very rare.

“The pilot in command of any aircraft is the one entirely responsible for the safe execution of a flight.”

However, Tantillo says with hot air balloon’s the wind is basically in control. So how could a pilot control a hot air balloon?
“We don’t have a steering mechanism or propulsion, however by changing our altitude…at different altitudes there will be different direction in speeds.”

Meaning the higher you go, the more the pilot could lose control of the balloon.  Also, Tantillo says the more people in the balloon, the harder it’ll be to control. He says he makes sure there are only up to five people inside his balloon for better control.Sixteen people were in the balloon in Texas. That crash killing everyone on board. Investigators are still trying to figure out if the pilot could’ve prevented the accident.
“All of us are thinking about our own procedures and habits and education. and i think most of us will be redoubling our efforts.”

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