NTSB Identification: FTW98FA089.
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Accident occurred Friday, January 09, 1998 in YESO, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/20/2000
Aircraft: Cameron R-420, registration: N298AR
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Minor.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The Global Hilton Roziere gas balloon experienced a rupture of its main gas cell's bottom 10 to 12 minutes after it reached its ceiling. The pilots continued to hear pops, rips, and tearing as the balloon descended to approximately 9,000 feet msl. Eighteen propane bottles and three oxygen bottles surrounded the gondola. The ground crew reported surface winds of 30 to 35 knots, and the surface terrain was rugged with canyons and rock formations. The crew decided that a safe heavy weight standup landing would not be possible, and they parachuted to the ground. The unmanned balloon continued flight for 7 hours and 375 nm until it impacted wires and was consumed by postimpact fire. The manufacturer stated that the main gas cell had 13.273 square feet of opening for the two appendixes to release surplus gas at ceiling altitude. Postaccident examination revealed that the balloon appendixes had only 8.96 square feet of opening. The manufacturer modified appendixes were buckled to the balloon's side, which further restricted the openings by 56%. The base circle in the bottom of the main gas cell 41 inches in diameter, 21.75% smaller than design specifications.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The rupture of the gas cell bottom (diaphragm) due to inadequate manufacturer's design and inadequate manufacturing quality control. A factor was the flight crew's performance of an emergency bailout which allowed the balloon to drift unattended for approximately 7 hours and 18 minutes.

Full narrative available

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