Egypt balloon tragedy
Nine Hong Kong tourists were among 19 victims killed in Luxor, Egypt, when a hot-air balloon burst into flames as it was descending during a sightseeing tour on February 26, 2013. Only the Egyptian pilot and a Briton survived the early morning accident. The other victims, out of 20 passengers, were from France, Japan, Britain, Hungary and Egypt.
Egypt's hot-air pilots trained and licensed
Chow Chung-yan, Stuart Lau and Cheung Chi-fai
Egypt's hot-air-balloon pilots must receive adequate training to navigate and control the dangerous equipment on board, while local aviation authorities inspect the balloon after every 100 hours of service, balloon operators in the country said yesterday.
The training covers emergency procedures, including for fire in the air, according to Egypt's aviation watchdog.
A manager from Magic Horizon Balloons Luxor, one of eight companies holding balloon tours over the city, said regular checks were carried out.
"The Civil Aviation Authority will inspect the balloons every 100 hours," he said. "They will check all the equipment, hoses, wires and the balloon. On top of that, individual companies have their own security checks as well.
"We also have experts from the UK check our balloons every three months. Before the flight, the pilot and the company staff also need to conduct a round of inspection, checking the wire and the basket."
A manager from SindBad Hot Air Balloons, another Luxor operator, said all pilots required licences and had to undergo proper training.
"This is our high season. Each company each day has about four to six flights," he said.
He said permission from the Civil Aviation Authority was needed before each flight.
"Sometimes the weather is bad and they will not give permission to fly," he said yesterday. "The weather today is pretty good, though."
According to the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority, a licensed commercial balloon pilot should have completed at least 35 hours of training. The training will include flying 15 hours under instruction, in which one flight must ascend to 900 metres.
Professor Eric Wong Tsun-tat, an expert in aviation safety at Polytechnic University, said navigating a hot-air balloon anywhere in the world required a licence, a requirement set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
But training for such a licence is not available everywhere. In Hong Kong, a pilot must hold a recognised licence from overseas and pass a written examination based on local conditions before piloting a balloon.