NTSB Identification: CHI04CA191.
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Accident occurred Saturday, July 24, 2004 in Wausau, WI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/28/2004
Aircraft: Aerostar RX-7, registration: N7144Y
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot suffered a broken leg when the hot air balloon experienced a hard landing due to gusty winds. The balloon was not damaged. The pilot reported a normal ascent and smooth flight for the first 5 minutes. She stated that the balloon then encountered turbulence. Initially the balloon climbed at 800 feet per minute (fpm) on a north-northwesterly heading, before switching to a southeasterly heading about 1,800 feet agl. Shortly afterward the balloon began to descend at 800 fpm. When the balloon reached an altitude of 100 feet agl the pilot attempted a normal landing. She estimated the wind was about 3 miles per hour toward the east-southeast. During the landing attempt, the pilot reported that a wind gust lifted the balloon up and over some trees and across a road. She noted that the balloon subsequently landed normally in a "swampy" area. However, before she could alert the ground crew a wind gust lifted the balloon to about 250 feet agl. The balloon subsequently traveled across a road and dropped into a hay field. She reported that she broke her leg during the hard landing. The pilot stated that because the envelope was partially deflated at this point, she did not have time to use the airborne heater to soften the impact. The balloon was dragged by the wind until she could retrieve the vent line to fully deflate the envelope. The pilot stated that she had obtained a pre-flight weather briefing from Green Bay Automated Flight Service Station. She also reported that they had launched several PIBAL's (pilot balloon observation) to check upper level winds prior to launch.

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

The pilot's inability to compensation for the turbulence and wind conditions. Contributing factors were the variable winds and the turbulence.

Full narrative available

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