By Sam Parks
There are some changes coming to the 2017 version of the NFPA-58 LP Gas Code Manual that could affect how balloonists refuel their hot air balloon propane tanks.
The BFA learned that the National Fire Protection Agency had initially voted to remove all references to hot air balloons and their propane fuel tanks from their 2017 manual. This action by the trade association that provides rules and regulations covering all LP gas containers could have had a devastating effect on our sport. With no HAB reference in the new code manual, LP dispensers or local fire marshals could deny LP gas on the basis of no code reference or DOT acknowledgement.
Immediately the BFA went to work in an effort to educate the NFPA and their technical committees regarding FAA certification of hot air balloon tanks (containers), the annual inspection process for those tanks (containers) and the refueling training that is required. After a lot of work that spanned over 18 months the NFPA accepted the BFA’s proposal to not only reverse its earlier decision but to adopt and accept the following new rules:
• 188.8.131.52 Containers for hot air balloons shall be marked to demonstrate compliance with FAA regulations.
• 184.108.40.206 Containers used in hot air balloons shall not be used for any other purpose.
• 220.127.116.11 An FAA certificated balloon pilot or a trained crew member shall be present and ensure the proper filling of the containers under the provisions of 5.2.9.
• 18.104.22.168 An FAA certificated balloon pilot meets the qualification requirements of section 4.4 for container filling. A crew member for the pilot that has been trained for container filling and carries a card documenting that training also meets the qualification requirements. The acceptability of a hot air balloon container for filling can be verified by finding the container in the flight log for that aircraft.
• 22.214.171.124 The requirements of 126.96.36.199 shall not apply to containers that comply with 5.2.9 and are included in the flight log of the hot air balloon. (188.8.131.52 dealt with removing the tank/cylinder sleeve for inspection before refueling)
• 184.108.40.206 Hot air balloon containers shall not be required to be removed from the aircraft for refilling. The following text was also removed:
• 1.3.2 Nonapplication of code. This code shall not apply to the following:
(7) Transportation by air (including use in hot air balloons, rail, or water under the jurisdiction of the DOT.
To comply with 220.127.116.11 the BFA consulted with balloon and fuel container manufacturers to come up with the proper wording that should be applied to each fuel tank (container). An example is included in this article. The BFA Office has a supply of these container stickers ready for purchase, or you can contact your manufacturer/repair station for the same.
The BFA is in the process of updating its LP Gas Safety Manual that could be used as a resource material for pilots that wish to train their crew members in the area of container refueling. Pilots who wish to issue their crew members the training documentation cards pursuant to 18.104.22.168 will be able to obtain those cards from the BFA office.
It should be noted that there are only a couple states that will automatically adopt the 2017 NFPA-58 code manual as of January. It’s important for all balloonists, regardless of your home state, to become familiar with the new manual, perhaps even downloading it from the NFPA web site. We should make contact with our state legislators and inquire about the process of accepting any new NFPA-58 code manual. I have learned that it could take years before individual states accept all or parts of any new code edition. While your state of residence might not adopt the new rules immediately, pilots who travel widely may wish to acquire stickers and cards for their crew as a precuationary step to compliance.
Contact the BFA if you have further questions regarding the NFPA rule changes.
I would like to thank Andy Baird and Phil Bryant for their assistance on this project and thanks to Richard Fredenburg with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for his continued support within the NFPA.