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Safety chief would refuse balloon ride

19:28 Thu Feb 23 2012

The head of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) says safety breaches around the Carterton balloon tragedy were to such a degree that he would have refused to ride.

The comments follow investigations into the January 7 air balloon tragedy which killed 11 people when the balloon hit a powerline and came crashing to the ground.

During a press conference on Thursday afternoon TAIC chief commissioner John Marshall said the apparent breaches were serious, Fairfax reported.

"If I had known as a person about to get into a balloon that maintenance requirements had not been compiled with, obviously, personally, I wouldn't get into that balloon."

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it is already investigating hot air balloon maintenance checks, after air crash investigators found some may not have been carried out on the balloon involved in the Carterton crash.

The TAIC on Thursday said it had ordered the review of checks as it investigated the fiery disaster.

The CAA, in a statement, said it launched an investigation into the maintenance of the country's 73 balloons last week.

But the announcement has annoyed Ballooning Aviation Association president Martyn Stacey, who said TAIC had implied balloon operators were not carrying out their maintenance properly.

"A pilot may be totally unaware maintenance hasn't been done properly," he told NZ Newswire.

The directive only affected the seven licensed maintenance engineers for lighter-than-air aircraft in New Zealand, he said.