Balloon pilots learned valuable information about avoiding utility wires during an April seminar offered by the Great Eastern Balloon Association that was offered at no cost to participants thanks to an AOPA Foundation Giving Back grant.
The Great Eastern Balloon Association was among 10 recipients of a $10,000 grant in 2014, all funded by tax-deductible donations to the AOPA Foundation that support AOPA’s charitable efforts to enhance aviation safety, protect community airports, foster participation in aviation and preserve the freedom to fly. The "Flying in the Wires Environment" seminar was taught by an internationally acclaimed expert and author Robert Feerst, president of Utilities/Aviation Specialists Inc., whose career spans decades of military, aviation, and utility work.
Feerst holds fixed-wing and rotorcraft certificates, and founded the company in 1985 to offer a unique blend of consulting services spanning several industries and missions. Feerst is also a trained accident investigator, and “his passion for safety was evident throughout the program,” Great Eastern Balloon Association Vice President Emelia Bernava wrote in a recent letter to the AOPA Foundation quoting seminar participants who shared her enthusiasm.
Feerst’s seminar, held at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, New Jersey, was the first such offering for balloon pilots and crew in the United States, Bernava noted, though Feerst teaches wire avoidance for pilots (among other subjects) internationally. The Great Eastern Balloon Association program covered basic awareness of hazards, crew resource management, how to scan for hazards effectively, illusions in the wire environment, and related information.
The AOPA Foundation will provide 10 more Giving Back grants in 2015, though the application process has changed from prior years. Applicants must submit a letter of intent by June 1 at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and selected applicants will be invited to proceed to a full application. Detailed instructions can be found on the AOPA Foundation website.