NTSB Identification: LAX02LA111.
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Accident occurred Saturday, March 16, 2002 in Sedona, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2004
Aircraft: Avian Magnum IX, registration: N2037U
Injuries: 1 Serious,6 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 balloon descended abruptly in a strong downdraft, bounced on the terrain, and then rose again, dragging the basket through trees before coming to rest. A passenger was seriously injured after a branch had penetrated the basket and became imbedded in her leg. The pilot reported the balloon drifted north in the prevailing winds for a period of about 25 minutes. The wind velocity was estimated at less than 5 knots. The flight continued northbound after exiting a valley and remained at an altitude of about 100 feet above ground level (agl). As the anticipated landing site approached, the chase crew was sent ahead to verify wind conditions. In the descent, with the envelope cooled, the pilot planned to drift over a ridgeline oriented west to east to make use of the ridge's wind blocking effect for the landing. About 60 feet above the trees, a west wind accelerated the balloon toward the east about 20 miles per hour. The pilot elected to continue the attempt to land in the vicinity of the clearing he had selected, refrained from applying heat, and continued to deflate the envelope. A downdraft was encountered, the balloon touched down hard, and bounced. The balloon was dragged through the trees with the vent open. The envelope softened, and then spinnakered. With no buoyancy, the balloon descended again, faster, and was dragged through more trees, which resulted in a tree limb penetrating the basket and injuring one passenger. The pilot and the injured passenger were dumped from the basket and the balloon came to rest a few feet away. The other passengers remained with the gondola as it lay on its side. Three other balloons had also been in the vicinity, and the one behind had landed abruptly at about the same time. The pilot was still holding onto the parachute line to deflate the envelope when he and the impaled passenger fell out of the basket in the violent sequence. Safety gear was not included on the required Equipment List published by the manufacturer and none had been taken aboard.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's decision to continue the landing approach after encountering a high wind condition. A factor in the accident was the pilot's decision to use the trees to try and slow the balloon's ground speed. Full narrative available
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