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5 Years After Lockhart, 5 Years of Inaction, & Now 5 More Deaths From Another Impaired Balloon Pilot

***Press Release***

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5 Years After Lockhart, 5 Years of Inaction, & Now 5 More Deaths From Another Impaired Balloon Pilot

Washington, D.C. – Just over five years after the tragic hot air balloon crash in Lockhart, we have now received the toxicology report from the 2021 New Mexico crash. The toxicology report for veteran balloon pilot Nick Meleski just made public reveals high amounts of cocaine and THC in tests run on his blood and urine. Meleski, 62, piloted the hot air balloon that crashed into power lines in Albuquerque in June, killing five. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has repeatedly refused to require commercial balloon operators to maintain an FAA medical certificate as is required of other commercial pilots.

The tragic Albuquerque crash reminded many of the fatal hot air balloon crash, also piloted by an impaired airman, that took the lives of 16 people near Lockhart, Texas on July 30, 2016. The Texas crash remains the deadliest aviation disaster in the United States since 2009. The NTSB’s Lockhart investigation found that the FAA’s refusal to require balloon operators to obtain a medical certificate contributed to the Texas tragedy.

Rep. Doggett then worked with victims’ families to author an amendment to remedy this failure to ensure no more families risk injury or death from an impaired pilot. Rep. Doggett spent years trying to get FAA to act, and repeated efforts to get his hot air balloon safety amendment attached to a must-pass bill, finally—over 2 years after the Lockhart tragedy—the legislation for which the survivors petitioned became law in 2018 through passage of the Doggett amendment in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act.

However, now, five years after the Lockhart tragedy and nearly three years after his safety measure became law, the FAA has done nothing but make excuses for their inaction.

“FAA has done nothing in five years but dither and delay,” said Congressman Doggett. “I warned FAA again and again that more inaction would lead to the loss of more innocent lives. I hope the tragic loss of four more innocents in New Mexico will finally prompt FAA to take the urgent action so long overdue. We cannot bring these precious lives back. But, when this measure is finally implemented, we hope no more families will be exposed to the horror of a crash from an impaired pilot.”

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Rep. Doggett on the floor of the House in 2018.

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