U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury
From the Office of U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury:
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01), Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (N.M) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M), and Mayor Tim Keller announced that Albuquerque hot air balloonists will soon be able to resume flights over the city’s Class C airspace following a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision.
The FAA’s decision follows the lawmakers’ February request to adjust a blanket aircraft requirement that effectively prohibited hot air balloon flights over the City of Albuquerque’s more heavily restricted airspace by requiring balloons to carry tracking devices incompatible with balloon design.
The policy announced today establishes a process by which hot air balloon pilots can fly over the airspace after signing a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the FAA. The LOA will be in place for one full year while a safety risk management panel analyzes the best long-term path forward.
“This is huge for New Mexico. Albuquerque is the ballooning capital of the world. Balloon Fiesta and year-round ballooning are a vital part of Albuquerque’s cultural fabric and economy,” Rep. Stansbury said. “Upon hearing that a new FAA rule could threaten this iconic industry, we have been working to resolve this issue. I am grateful to the FAA for working to find a meaningful solution and to the ballooning community who brought it to our attention— and who every day keeps the magic of ballooning in New Mexico alive!”
“The economic and cultural importance of New Mexico’s rightful reputation as the Ballooning Capital of the World cannot be overstated,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “I appreciate the FAA’s work to identify a solution, recognizing that Albuquerque’s ballooning community has operated with a dedication to safety for over fifty years. New Mexico’s representatives from local, state, and federal government worked together to advocate for a solution – and the real winners are the thousands of visitors to New Mexico and the Balloon Fiesta every year.”
“The unique Albuquerque wind patterns have made hot air ballooning iconic and essential to the industry and our tourism economy. This fight was critical to reopen the airspace over Albuquerque. I was proud to work with our delegation to win that fight,” Sen. Heinrich said.
“Hot air balloons are an important part of New Mexico’s culture and economy, as seen in the annual Balloon Fiesta,” Sen. Luján said, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “I’m pleased that this industry will continue bringing people together in New Mexico. It is vital that the FAA provides clarity to hot air balloon professionals and enthusiasts, as their community makes significant contributions to our state’s economy.”
“When it comes to ballooning and Albuquerque’s traditions, we stand up for our city,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “We’re grateful for the FAA’s work to find a path forward with us. Today, our pilots are cleared for takeoff and we’re ready to celebrate a half century of the Balloon Fiesta as planned.”
“We recognize the important role that hot air ballooning plays in New Mexico’s culture,” FAA Regional Administrator Rob Lowe said. “The FAA has reached an agreement that enables balloon pilots to continue flying safely in the region while we work on a long-term solution.”