World Captivated by Runaway Balloon Story
Media Consults EAA About 'Experimental' Aircraft
October 15, 2009 — Phones started ringing in EAA’s communications department Thursday afternoon (October 15) as news of a homebuilt helium balloon, which authorities believed was carrying a 6-year-old boy, was reported drifting over Fort Collins, Colorado. It turned out that the boy was hiding in the attic of his family’s garage, but for several hours it was feared he was trapped inside the vessel that reached an altitude of 7,000 feet AGL before rapidly deflating and touching down approximately 60 miles east of where it took off.
Due to the balloon’s characterization as an “Experimental” aircraft by media outlets, EAA’s Dick Knapinski received dozens of inquiries from media representatives desperate for background information about experimental aircraft. Knapinski fielded calls from ABC News, CBS Evening News, CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, two Canadian TV Networks, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and numerous other media outlets.
Knapinski explained that the runaway balloon was not an experimental category aircraft as defined by the FAA. “The balloon may have been an experiment, but it was not an experimental category aircraft,” he told several outlets.
“During a situation like this, it actually becomes an opportunity to educate the media about homebuilt and experimental aircraft of all types,” Knapinski said.
In the end, the child was found safe and sound in the attic at his family's Fort Collins garage, CNN reported.