NTSB Identification: DEN06LA016.
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Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2005 in Kendall, KS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/25/2006
Aircraft: Abruzzo Grom-1, registration: N96YD
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 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, USA-1, was participating in the Gordon Bennett race. It had been aloft for 22 hours and had traveled some 350 to 400 miles. Cruising about 35 mph in "smooth air" at 7,000 feet msl, it encountered "mid-afternoon dry thermals" and a "sudden and unexpected downdraft." The dry thermals forced the balloon into an "extreme" and uncontrolled descent. The veriometer "pegged" at 1,500 feet per minute descent. The crew attempted to arrest the descent rate by throwing ballast overboard, but was unsuccessful and the balloon collided with power lines. The entangled gondola severed the power lines and the balloon ascended rapidly. As it ascended, the gondola "pitched violently as much as 60 degrees" and the pilot fell out at a height approximately 30 to 40 feet. The balloon ascended with the copilot still on board. Using a satellite telephone, she notified the chase crew and gave them the location of the accident. The balloon ascended to 14,000 feet msl before the copilot was able to "[execute] a controlled descent." The balloon hit the ground hard approximately 8 miles from the accident site.

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

the downdraft forcing the balloon into the power lines. A contrbuting factor was the clear air turbulence and the power lines.

Full narrative available

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