The Slovenia Times

Improper Flying Technique Cause of 2012 Balloon Crash


In the report issued on Monday, the investigators also list the failure to follow regulations and weather conditions as contributing to the crash that took place in the morning of 23 August 2012 near the village of Ig, south of Ljubljana.

Out of 32 people in the balloon basket, four died immediately, including an 11-year-old. They were charred beyond recognition in the fire that broke out after the balloon hit a tree.

Apart from hitting the tree, the balloon hit the ground several times during landing and some of the passengers fell out of the basket, while others were enveloped by fire, the report said.

Virtually all passengers sustained injuries in the crash; most of them suffered fractures of the spine and extremities, doctors said after the crash.

The report establishes that there was nothing wrong with the Londstrand LBL 600C balloon.

The report also found that the pilot had a valid licence. However, his license had been suspended weeks before and he was urged to provide a medical eyesight attestation. The investigators however determined that the pilot's health did not contribute to the accident.

An investigation determining criminal responsibility of the pilot, Miro Kolenc, has been launched. The pilot, who was also injured in the crash, is suspected of negligent endangerment and could get up to eight years in prison.

The aviation investigators also found that the weather conditions played a role in the crash, as a storm was nearing Ljubljana that morning.

What is more, balloon operator Balonarski center, the company that operated the flight, did not have a licence to perform commercial balloon flights on the day of the crash.

The tragedy revealed poor oversight and respect for regulation in commercial balloon flying and the government dismissed the director of the Civil Aviation Agency (CAA), Bruno Žiga Kotnik, in its aftermath.

Moreover, a ban on commercial balloon flights was imposed for a period of time.

Following the release of today's report, Darko Kralj, a balloon pilot and flight instructor, said the findings did not come as a surprise to him and expressed criticism that it took the investigators two years to produce a report.

He moreover believes that investigators should also examine what kind of training the pilot had completed. He also said that several complaints had been lodged against the pilot in the two years before the crash.

Kralj believes that Slovenian balloon pilots in general also bear a part of the responsibility. He said that the number of piloting licences dropped from 130 to 30 in the past years. "We reduced safety to an even lower level."

The flight instructor moreover said that currently it was impossible to acquire a balloon flying license in Slovenia as none of the flight schools were operating due to unclear regulatory framework.

He added that the EU has realised that its regulations on recreational flying were too complicated and that a regulatory overhaul was required.

The investigators recommended the Civil Aviation Agency and the Infrastructure Ministry to revise existing regulations and define criteria for balloon flying, Toni Stojčevski, a member of the investigation team, told the STA.

The two institutions should also provide an estimate of oversight capabilities and provide for a sufficient number of inspectors to secure constant oversight, he added.


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