May 13, 2020

To All Our Members,

Thank you to all of you who were able to join us on the Town Hall meeting this past Saturday morning. We also appreciated all of the emailed suggestions and recommendations that were submitted.

As this COVID-19 and Stay-at-Home is ever changing, it can sometimes be a challenge for all of us to adapt in the manner expected. For a large balloon club such as ours, this can be an even bigger challenge; pilots who are fortunate enough to live and fly here in the Albuquerque surrounding area are used to an average of 300 plus days of beautiful weather and flying opportunities.

So, not being able to fly is frustrating; very frustrating for all of us. When we say “able”, that term is used loosely as that encompasses a number of items – internal debate of should I or shouldn’t I fly, peer pressure, and also because the Governor of my state says we are supposed to stay at home. We all have been trying to survive the last 8 weeks in NM since the Stay-at-Home was initially started. The struggles of just needing to get out of the house, explore, and get back to doing the things that make you feel happy again, just seem like a launch field away.

The AAAA board is composed of pilots, crew members, and small business owners who are all feeling the same pressures that you are. The only difference between us and you, is that you elected us to guide the club in the best direction during our term. We as a board take that very seriously and we don’t want to make any mistakes that would jeopardize the club, our waiver, our members, or our community.

We as a board or club cannot, and will not, tell you if you can or cannot fly.

There have been several discussions with the local FSDO office regarding their thoughts about the current situation for the club. Gary Medina from the FAA advised us that they don’t have a “dog in the fight”. That is, unless there is an incident or accident in which they are called out for. In that case, there is a chance that the pilot could be cited for careless and reckless behavior under FAR 91.13(b). He also mentioned that he can see a bigger issue for the club regarding the breaking of the mass gatherings restriction, as it is currently set at 5. Even though each balloonist may only be there as a group of 5 or less, the total number of balloonists in the same field can be perceived as being a mass gathering.

We as a board have come up with a Quick Reference Guide (QRG) for COVID. This is just for you to have and use as you see fit. Please know that we took member suggestions and put together a single sheet of easy to remember mnemonic of things to be considered when returning to the skies. (Below in this email, will also be added to the website for download)

Food for thought submitted by a member: “think about something that applied before, during and after the pandemic. When we as balloonists are out and about, either ballooning or driving the chase truck, or the family vehicle with a Balloon Fiesta bumper sticker, or at Costco wearing a balloon jacket, whether we like it or not, we are perceived by the general public to be representatives of the ballooning community. If we choose to run the just-turned-red traffic light, or flip off another vehicle, or take any other anti-social action, it can color the public’s perception of the ballooning community. Might not be a big deal to everyone, but it is to some.”

We all are stewards of our sport, please stay safe and well; this too shall pass.


AAAA Board of Directors