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Hot-air balloon rides -- researchers advise, proceed with caution
Date:11/4/2013

Recent data show that helicopter and fixed-wing commercial air tour operations in the U.S. have high crash rates compared with similar commercial aviation operations, and crash rates increase with less regulated standards of operation. The findings raise concerns about the public health impact of less-regulated commercial air tour operations, such as paid hot-air balloon rides.

The investigation of hot-air balloon-related injuries and deaths in the U.S. reports that targeted interventions may improve crash outcomes and decrease the number and severity of balloon crash injuries. The study, conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy, appears in the November issue of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers combed through National Transportation Safety Board reports of hot-air balloon tour crashes from 2000-2011. During the 12-year period, 78 hot-air balloon tours crashed, involving 518 occupants. There were 91 serious injuries and 5 fatalities; 83% of crashes resulted in one or more serious or fatal outcome. Of the serious injuries, 56% were lower extremity fractures.

"Our findings provide valuable information not previously available on the number and kinds of injuries sustained in crashes of paid hot-air balloon rides," said Sarah-Blythe Ballard, MD, MPH, first author of the paper and a PhD student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "This research can inform consumers about the risks involved with this recreational activity, and serve as a tool for operators and policy makers wishing to employ targeted prevention strategies to reduce balloon ride crashes and crash-related injuries and deaths."

Most crashes (81%) occurred during landing; 65% involved hard landings. Fixed-object collisions, with trees, buildings, power lines or the ground, contributed to 50% of serious injuries and all 5 fatalities.
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Contact: Natalie Wood-Wright
nwoodwri@jhsph.edu
410-614-6029
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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