Balloonist takes to the sky too soon |

Balloonist takes to the sky too soon

Gregory Crofton

Law enforcement ordered a hot-air balloon out of the air Sunday morning because it was in violation of flight rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department first heard about a hot-air balloon over the lake around 9 a.m. when they got a call from the Reno Flight Center, said Sgt. Jim Watson.

The balloon, owned by Balloons Over Lake Tahoe, returned to earth after deputies got word via radio to the pilot that the flight was illegal.

“They finally landed on a boat on the lake and were met by Douglas County Sheriff’s Department at Nevada Beach,” Watson said. “When they close flights down they mean it.”

The business did not receive a ticket, but the case is being investigated by the FAA. Flight restrictions have been in effect since last week’s terrorist attacks. Initially, all air travel was banned.

On Friday at 1 p.m., general aviation resumed under instrument flight rules but not visual flight rules. Hot air balloons, hang gliders, parachutists and gliders are guided by visual flight rules and therefore are not allow to fly until the ban is lifted.

An FAA spokeswoman said a violation of visual flight rules can produce “substantial sanctions involving the pilot’s ability to continue to hold an airman’s certificate.”

Bowlet said he opened for business for the first time since Tuesday because he didn’t believe restrictions applied to him.

“It’s not very clear right now. This has never happened before,” he said. “No one has had the time to distinguish between the various forms of aviation so everybody is banned.”

Bowlet said operating this time of year is essential to the financial health of his business, which has been at South Shore for nine years.

“It’s our season,” he said. “(We did it) so we could stay in business, pay our bills and pay our employees. We’ve been down for a long time.”

Robert Allen, owner of Lake Tahoe Balloons, a competing business at South Shore, said all of his balloons will remain grounded until the restrictions are lifted.

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