13 Investigates


FAA launches investigation after hot air balloon 'splash-and-dash' caught on camera

Posted at 4:17 PM, Jul 10, 2018

The Federal Aviation Administration is launching an investigation after Contact 13 uncovered video of a "splash-and-dash" performed by a local balloon pilot over Rhodes Ranch.

The video was posted on YouTube by user DownieLive on June 27.

The 10-minute video shows a group of people flying above Las Vegas. The video shows the balloon nearly touching the water hazard on the Rhodes Ranch golf course, also known as a splash-and-dash.

Contact 13 has been reporting on complaints from homeowners and residents in Rhodes Ranch, and the surrounding area after a series of low altitude balloons flights.

The most recent video has the attention of federal investigators and a spokesperson released a statement regarding the video:

Speaking generally, and not in relation to this specific flight, deliberately piloting a balloon with passengers onboard a few feet above the ground could potentially violate multiple Federal Aviation Regulations, including our minimum safe altitude regulation

Ian Gregor

FAA Communication Manager

FAA Pacific Division

The FAA has contacted local balloon operations to remind them of the minimum altitude requirements.

Contact 13 reached out to the balloon operator company which appears in the video, and the owner released the following statement:

We here at Vegas Balloon Rides are aware of the Youtube video, and think it’s a fantastic video showing some of the great pilot skills within our company.

A ‘Splash and Dash’ is a very common hot-air-balloon activity that occurs daily world-wide.  It occurs when a pilot dips the basket in a body of water and ascends again. 
The Federal Aviation Administration is well aware of a practice that has been a part of the modern Hot Air Ballooning community almost since its inception.  In fact, almost every pilot that flies Hot Air Balloons is taught how to properly execute a Splash and Dash as well as to safely fly above water as part of their most basic flight instruction.  We were operating well within the Federal Aviation Regulations when this Splash and Dash took place.  As you can clearly see on the video, our guests had a fantastic and safe flight. 
We recognize it may look unique, especially if you’re unfamiliar with hot air balloons but a cursory Google search shows over 19,000 current videos of balloon’ Splash and Dash’s’ across the globe.
We always welcome the FAA.  Should they wish to review our operation, our flight practices or our professional credentials, we welcome the scrutiny.  We share a common goal of safe, fun flying for everyone.

Keith Fear, Owner
Vegas Balloon Rides

13 Investigates - Send us a tip
Do you have a story idea or tip for 13 Investigates? Fill out the form below.
Are you willing to go on camera?