ADI Pressure Wins Release Of World View Balloon Explosion Investigation Report To County Supervisors Months After It Was Completed, ‘Sanitized’

World View balloon explosion

Pima County and its taxpayers are the landlords of the World View Spaceport, the Board of Supervisors having authorized a $15 million debt to borrow the money to build the facility.  With interest, the county estimates the total cost at $20 million.  The Spaceport, known best for launching a Kentucky Fried Chicken Sandwich to the edge of space from a site in Page, and for offering $75,000 space tourist flights in its high-altitude balloons, has been a high priority cause for County Administrator Charles Huckelberry as a “high economic development source.”

On December 19, 2017, a hydrogen balloon exploded, breaking windows and shattering ceiling tiles a mile away.  World View, Pima County, and the media were silent until the Arizona Daily Independent ran a story with a video of the explosion.  Questions from Supervisor Ally Miller forced release of preliminary investigations which showed far more than the “superficial” damage claimed by the County Administrator.

As a result an “independent investigation” was announced by Huckelberry on February 8, with Assistant County Administrator John “Dutch” Voorhees assigned as the county’s representative.  The team would be headed by NASA retiree Wayne Hale.  On February 15 “Dutch” Voorhees wrote to World View, “I would expect the county to receive a written, publically releasable (ie sanitized) incident investigation report.”  He stressed that “privileged information” could be left out.

The investigation, we now know, began February 12 and was completed in five days, but neither the Board of Supervisors nor the public nor the media were made aware of that.  When ADI sought information for a six-month “anniversary” story in June, both Hale and World View refused to comment.

“Dutch” Voorhees, reached by phone on June 15, told us “the investigation has been concluded,” that a “Draft Report” had been completed; that the county was “reviewing the draft.”  He called it a “slow-moving ballgame,” that the county, “as landlords, we have to be deliberate and careful.”  He said the report would be given to elected officials “in another month or so,” “after review” and then it would become a public document.  It sounded like the report was being “sanitized” before release, a cover-up, and ADI ran a story asking that question on June 17.

An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors was presented by occasional ADI writer Albert Lannon on July 3 asking those same questions, with copies sent to various media sources.  ADI and the Three Sonorans news blog ran the full text, while the Arizona Daily Star declined to run a Guest Opinion by Lannon.

Taking the story public appears to have been what was needed to get the now-five-month-old report into the light of day.  Huckelberry sent the “sanitized” report to the Supervisors on July 12, and Supervisor Ally Miller immediately posted it on her web page.  World View’s cover memo to Huckelberry is dated May 21.
What has been released, according to Huckelberry’s July 12 memo, is not the “more in-depth report for the internal use of World View Enterprises.”  That report, it appears, will remain a secret from the Board of Supervisors and the public.  Huckelberry continues to insist that damage was “superficial,” as he did on February 8, adding now that it was also “significant.”  Independent knowledgeable observers looking at damage reports and photographs early in the year told us that the damage was much more than superficial.

The upshot is that World View has hired a first-ever Safety Director, hired a consultant for safety training, is expanding its safety training, and established a “Mission Operations organization,” to, presumably, help prevent future explosions.  The “Independent Incident Review Team” (IIRT) headed by Hale found that World View “incorrectly assessed both the probability and possible consequences of on explosive event….”  The IIRT recommended “rigorous additional safety measures be implemented.”  Those were not, however, spelled out.  At least not in the “sanitized” version.

“Current safety practices,” the IIRT told World View, “should be improved.  Changes to culture, practices, procedures, protocols, documentation, accountability and communication will be required.”  They found that some personnel had “excessive workloads.”

The “sanitized” report and memorandums can be accessed at Supervisor Ally Miller’s website:

Charles Huckelberry memo, July 12, 2018:


existing or occurring at or on the surface.


sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy.

There are many as-yet-unanswered questions:  What has been left out of the “sanitized” report?  Why the three-month-long delay by World View in sending the report to Pima County?  A “slow-moving ballgame” implies negotiations and revisions, the “sanitizing” of a cover-up.  Why another two-month delay in sending the report to the Board of Supervisors?  More cover-up?

A Freedom of Information Act request was made on July 11 to the County Administrator’s office for the original report and copies of any communications between World View, Pima County and the IIRT since the original report was completed in February.  Stay tuned.



  1. while I agree that this should have never happen the way it did with the County, there is an interesting article in Aviation Weekly about the ‘balloon’ and possible missions lasting up to six months in the ultra high atmosphere via this balloon system. A variety of uses for this not very used slice of the atmosphere. So I question why is was built where it is, next to Raython – accident, I don’t think so. I also question it’s original mission of ‘tourist ride’ – I’m also hearing of a missile launch pad near this same location for launch of low earth orbit of micro sized satellites… and I don’t know what or why, work in arrays would be by guess – but I don’t have a clue in this regard, just word of mouth. Is interesting though.. will this turn out to be a defense cover for this project. Would not surprise me. Maybe they are putting up all this stuff in the sky to keep an eye on ‘the oracle’

    • It’s a nice thought BillyB;….but:

      This is just another draining of taxpayer funds
      to leftists. In this case Gabby Giffords and

      Apparently millions in Superfund site money;
      and a lifetime massive Congressional retirement
      package just aren’t enough.

      • then why would there be the article in the aviation weekly – an industry standard publication for the aero engineering and aviation market place. Seems out of place they would publish something like this without something…..

  2. This is why we need term limits on the BOS. Chucky wouldn’t have as much clout as he does if BOS members were limited to two terms and Chucky would have to worry that a new board wouldn’t fire him

  3. In order, the top three most corrupt inept incompetent and mismanaged government operations in Southern Arizona. Pima county led by Huckleberry. City of Tucson led by Rothschild. And TUSD led by Trujillo. And the one thing they all have in common? Democratic majority elected leadership. If you can’t acknowledge that. Then You don’t know shit from shinola.

  4. I expected nothing less than what I just read. Proof once again the the ADS is in bed with Pima County in addition to the “whitewash”.

    I applaud Albert getting to ball rolling but sadly the public never really knows what goes on here.

    Please change the board in the next election!!

  5. Huckelberry is a political animal.

    Get a 3 to 2 Republican board and his priorities will change in a nanosecond.

    He’ll push roads, become a Rosemont cheerleader and starve the bike paths.

    Whatever you want to say about him, he is a good administrator. He’s not worth what he’s getting paid, but he is good at his job, which is getting the majority of the board get re-elected.

  6. How can Huckelberry keep anything from the board of supervisors when he is suppose to take direction from them? The board majority should have never voted to extend this man’s contract. He is a awarded a transportation award – for what? The worst roads in Arizona! He uses our tax payer funds to build a bike path and then finds a way to name it after him! Has the FAA ever provided approval to fly balloons out of World View – only about a mile from an active commercial runway? If you are tired of this, the first step is to vote out the board majority in 2020! He promotes a bond while using HURF and VLT funds for everything except fixing the roads – #RetireHuckelberry.

  7. Nothing in the report or memos suggests the FAA was notified. About half of the 9-page sanitized report are the bios of the “investigators.” Smoke and mirrors.

  8. What a crock of horse pucky!!

    Chuck proves again the board does what he says.

    Can we support any candidate who runs other than incumbents. Then let’s investigate Chuck. He look good in Orange jump suit.

    Richard Hernandez

    • Huckleberry is simply the hired thug of the Democrat Party Machine and the big political donors. Replace one more Democrat Supervisor with a Republican and Huckleberry and his shenanigans go away. Unfortunately, Huckleberry and the Democrat Party also serve the interest of too many Republicans like Ray Carroll, Little Johnny Winchester, Edmund and Lea Marquez-Peterson and their crowd who helped distract the GOP from their chance to defeat Bronson last time and thus lost the chance to gain the majority on the Board of Supervisors. Remember, ALL the Republicans running for the Board last time, EXCEPT Little Johnny Winchester, promised to fire Huckleberry and if Bronson had been defeated Huckleberry and World View would be history today. Let`s hope that the current Pima County GOP chair, Mr. Eppiheimer is not being fooled by Huckleberry as front man and has plans to take control of the Pima Board of Supervisors for the benefit of the people of Pima County.

  9. Balloons are craft that fly, subject to FAA rules; and the Worldview balloons are intended, so they say, for commercial passenger flight. They are subject to the FAA and NTSB for investigating the explosion, aren’t they? Why did those agencies not get involved? Was a crime committed by leaving them out?

  10. Will ADI be changing their moniker to AVL, the voice of Communism for Southern Arizona?

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