NTSB Identification: DEN00LA062.
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Accident occurred Saturday, March 18, 2000 in LOS LUNAS, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/04/2000
Aircraft: Adams A55S, registration: N4035T
Injuries: 3 Minor.

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 St. Patrick's Balloon Rally weather briefing indicated calm surface winds. Winds aloft were greater than 20 knots, and the level was expected to drop later that morning. On a previous flight, the winds aloft had been negligible, then varied between southeasterly at 5 knots to westerly at 3 knots. On a later flight, the wind was 'variable and slow,' then became 'predominantly to the west at approximately 2to 3 knots.' The pilot landed the balloon in an open field 'unassisted and standing up.' The envelope was not deflated at that time because the wind was calm and the chase crew had not yet arrived. When the chase crew did arrive, 'the wind seemed to change direction to the southeast,' and wind speed 'increased dramatically...from the northwest at approximately 10 to 15 knots.' The balloon ascended about 15 to 20 feet. The balloon 'throat collapsed and [the pilot] could not burn to compensate for false lift.' He attempted to vent the envelope, but the top would not open because it was cold from standing on the ground. The false lift dissipated, the balloon struck the ground, and was dragged across the field.

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

The pilot's decision not to deflate the envelope. A factor was the wind gust.

Full narrative available

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