The AP reports that at a federal hearing on a 2016 hot air balloon crash that killed 16 people in Texas, NTSB investigators said balloon operator Alfred “Skip” Nichols took sedatives and opioids that affected his abilities during the flight. The AP adds that Nichols had “at least four convictions for drunken driving and twice spent time in prison.”
Reuters reports that at the hearing, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt accused the FAA of not providing adequate oversight. Sumwalt said, “I am disappointed that the FAA appears to be shirking its responsibility.” The NTSB “said the FAA should require medical certificates for balloon pilots and find ‘more effective ways to target oversight’ of balloon pilots ‘that pose the most significant safety risk to the public.’” Reuters reports that in July, the FAA rejected suggestions that more regulations are needed. In its report on the fatal accident, the FAA wrote that pilots who “consistently demonstrate willful noncompliance with federal aviation regulations pose a safety risk that cannot be controlled through additional regulations.”
From the news release of the American Association for Justice.