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Accidents blighted balloon flights

Hot air balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt underwent a major safety overhaul nearly four years ago after a series of accidents.

The trips, usually at sunrise over the Karnak and Luxor temples as well as the Valley of the Kings, are popular with British visitors to Egypt as they allow a panoramic view of the ancient sites.

Sixteen people were hurt, including two British women, when a balloon crashed during a tour of Luxor in April 2009. The balloon was believed to have hit a mobile phone transmission tower near Gourna Village on the West Bank of the Nile.

A fortnight earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash. And in late February that year, three hot air balloons carrying 60 tourists crashed on the same day in separate locations. Seven passengers suffered injuries including broken bones.

In April 2008, four Scottish tourists, who were photographing Luxor in a group with three other holiday makers, were seriously injured when the hot air balloon in which they were travelling crash-landed.

Eight French and American holidaymakers were hurt in 2007 along with two Egyptians when their balloon crash-landed in a field near Luxor. The sightseeing trip went wrong when strong winds forced the balloon down in Gourna.

Following the 2009 crash, early morning hot air balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings were suspended for six months while safety measures were tightened up.

During the break, all 42 pilots from the eight companies which operate flights had extra training.

Other initiatives to improve safety brought in included confining all take-offs to a new balloon "airport" and limiting the maximum number of balloons up at the same time to eight - previously as many as 50 could share the air space.

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