Tue, Jul 05, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taitung farmer criticizes hot-air balloon festival

Staff writer, with CNA

A Taitung County farmer on Sunday said he does not welcome hot-air balloons on his land, calling for equal treatment and respect of private property during the county’s annual hot-air balloon festival.

Barkely Lin (林義隆) wrote on Facebook that he “has become a farmer who does not welcome hot-air balloon landings” since one landed on his pineapple farm and damaged about a dozen pineapple plants four years ago, for which he was never compensated.

The annual Taiwan International Balloon Festival opened in Luye Township (鹿野) on Friday and is to run through Aug. 7.

Lin, who lives in the township’s Yongan Village (永安), north of the field where balloons take off and land, asked why the “paid tourist sport” can “freely land on private farmland?”

Lin said he has written letters to the Taitung County Government and the Civil Aeronautics Administration, but never received a reply.

Taitung Department of Tourism head Chiang Hui-ching (江慧卿) said the government had commissioned Sky Rainbow Co to manage the festival and the company is responsible for telling pilots where they cannot land and responding to farmers’ complaints.

However, Sky Rainbow chief pilot Wu Chih-wei (吳稚偉) said balloon pilots cannot always control their flight paths and it is hard to choose where to land.

The company is communicating with farmers about compensation and working to find a consensus, Wu said.

Sky Rainbow, which opened in Luye in August 2014, is the nation’s first licensed hot-air balloon company and flying school.

Lin worked as a manager for an electronics company in Hsinchu Science Park before turning to farming in Luye in 2005.

The balloon festival is in its sixth year.

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