Safety issues raised over hot air balloon fest
CLARK FREEPORT—The foundation that has been organizing the annual hot air balloon festival here since 2000 has expressed concern about the safety requirements related to the ballooning event set to be held by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in April.
In a statement sent to the Inquirer, the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) Foundation Inc. also disassociated itself from this year’s festival that will be held from April 10 to 14 in this free port, as it cited the lack of time to prepare for the event.
“We hope that the organizers, headed by Mr. [Ronaldo] Tiotuico (DOT Central Luzon regional director), have carefully looked into the many safety requirements and issues involved in staging an event of this scale. The PIHABF organizers are concerned that the length of time allotted for them to learn the processes and the preparation is too short,” the PIHABF Foundation said.
“We hope they are not misrepresenting their aviation and air show expertise in implementing this kind of activity to prospective sponsors, participants and especially the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines,” the group said.
The foundation recently announced the cancellation of the 19th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, originally scheduled to be held here next month, due to insufficient time to plan and prepare for a more exciting festival that would feature more balloons and new activities.
The cancellation prompted Tiotuico, with the approval of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., to organize another ballooning event dubbed “2014 Philippine Friendship Balloon Festival.”
The DOT will hold the festival in tandem with the Clark Development Corp., the Clark International Airport Corp. and the Philippine Air Force.
Tiotuico said he expected 15 to 20 hot air balloonists from different countries to participate in the festival in April.
But members of the PIHABF Foundation said summer is not the ideal time to hold a hot air balloon festival. They said all hot air balloon fiestas since 1994 had been held during the cold months, usually February, when the environment or surrounding air is cool since balloons fly well when the air in them is considerably hotter.
A balloon needs to be heated with a propane burner at a hotter temperature for it to generate enough lift or upward buoyant force to fly during hot weather.
“If the surrounding air is warm during a summer month like April, I doubt if the hot air balloons would even take off from the ground,” a foundation member told the Inquirer by telephone.
But Tiotuico said the expected hot weather in April poses no problem for hot air balloons, adding that there would not be any safety and technical concern for the propane-powered balloons.
“[There is] no technical concerns for the balloons but spectators may find it (weather) too hot,” he said.
The PIHABF Foundation said festival organizers have “worked hard and put many years into achieving a good safety record and establishing trust with participants and other partners.”
“Any untoward incident puts the reputation of the Philippines at stake and not just the organizers, since the balloon fiesta is an event the international aviation community looks forward to,” it added. Jun Malig, Inquirer Central Luzon