NTSB Identification: LAX99LA189.
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Accident occurred Saturday, May 22, 1999 in WINDSOR, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/02/2002
Aircraft: Cameron A-250, registration: N3037V
Injuries: 2 Serious,13 Minor,2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The balloon basket hit hard and overturned during a precautionary landing. The pilot contacted the tower at the intended point of landing 2 miles away, and they notified him of winds gusting to 21 knots. The wind was calm at the balloon's location, but the pilot decided to land. Before he could get the balloon to the ground, the winds increased rapidly. The balloon hit the ground and went through a fence prior to a hard collision with the steep bank of a creek. The pilot was ejected as he tried to deflate the balloon, and the copilot landed the balloon. It hit hard and the basket turned onto its side. The balloon Flight Manual (FM) requires the balloon to be equipped with helmets for each passenger and recommends that they be worn during landings in winds 10 mph or greater. It instructs the pilot to brief passengers on proper use prior to flight. The pilot did not have enough helmets on board to equip every passenger, did not brief the passengers that they were available, and did not brief them on the equipment's proper use. About 3 hours before the flight, the pilot contacted a Flight Service Station for weather information at his destination. This brief occurred a few minutes prior to the release of the next scheduled aerodrome forecast (TAF), which noted the possibility of a rapid increase in wind velocity about the time of the actual landing. The estimated time of arrival for which the pilot obtained the brief could not be established. The pilot did not update his briefing prior to launch. It could not be established if he obtained a standard briefing, abbreviated briefing, or requested specific information. The pilot recalled receiving winds aloft, but not a forecast for high surface winds. The Airman's Information Manual states that if the pilot requests either a standard or abbreviated weather briefing, a briefer will automatically provide adverse conditions both present and forecast. The briefer will provide a destination forecast for the estimated time of arrival and any significant changes within 1 hour before and after the planned arrival time.

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

The pilot did not obtain the most current weather briefing available, which forecast high winds about his actual landing time. The balloon encountered high winds and collided with an embankment in a field during a precautionary hard landing. Factors in the accident were that the pilot did not have enough protective gear for all passengers as prescribed in the Flight Manual, and he did not brief the passengers that the gear was available or on its proper use.

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