NTSB Identification: CHI02LA216.
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Accident occurred Saturday, July 27, 2002 in Custer, SD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/04/2002
Aircraft: Aerostar International S-77A, registration: N2867W
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Minor,7 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 aircraft experienced a hard landing while landing on an open prairie. The pilot reported that the balloon encountered increased winds at an altitude of approximately 200 feet. He stated that the lower level wind had picked up when he came in to land. He reported that he briefed his passengers for the landing, telling them to bend their knees and hold on. The pilot stated that the balloon contacted the ground on an upslope with a fairly steep incline just prior to the prairie and he pulled the top out of the balloon for fast deflation. According to the pilot, the balloon slid approximately 60 feet to the top of the incline and as it passed over the top of the incline the basket swung up and forward for about 30 to 40 feet. He stated that the basket then contacted the ground and slid to a rest within 50 to 60 feet. The pilot reported that another pilot in a balloon behind him used a GPS to check the winds while airborne. This pilot reported the winds were 27 miles per hour. An FAA Inspector who was at the balloon rally reported that approximately 10 minutes after the accident balloon's departure, the wind speed increased and the wind direction varied. He reported that this lasted for approximately 10 minutes then the winds calmed down.

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

The pilot of the balloon did not maintain aircraft control. Factors contributing to the accident include the variable winds and the inadequate compensation for the wind conditions by the pilot in command.

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