NTSB Identification: LAX07LA126.
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Accident occurred Friday, April 13, 2007 in Mecca, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2007
Aircraft: ARBC Inc 150A, registration: N156LB
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious,4 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 pilot was conducting a for-hire sightseeing balloon ride to five tourists. The pilot had received a weather briefing that stated winds at the closest airport, 7 miles away, were 310 degrees at 11 knots. The next closest airport, about 20 miles away was reporting winds 310 degrees at 12 knots gusting to 18 knots. The forecast for the area had occasional gusty surface winds up to 25 knots. Winds aloft, up to 9,000 feet, were from the north between 15 and 29 knots. The balloon flight manual states that the maximum surface wind speed for takeoff and landing is 15 knots. The pilot determined that the winds at the first takeoff location were not favorable, and took the balloon party to a second location. At the second takeoff location the pilot noted the winds by looking at treetop and had the balloon inflated. He had the passengers load into the basket. Once airborne he stated that the flight will be shorter than usual because of the winds. In fact the balloon had covered the distance that usually takes 1 hour in about 20 minutes. The pilot gave a prelanding briefing to the passengers, and prepared them for a faster than normal landing. The winds in the landing area were 10 knots with gusts between 15 and 20 knots, which were above the balloon's recommended landing wind limit. As the pilot directed the balloon into the selected landing zone, the balloon began to descend more rapidly than the pilot could compensate for and headed directly for a row of electrical power lines. During the landing approach the basket overhead structure struck and broke through a section of electrical power lines. The balloon basket continued its descent, impacted the ground hard, bounced up, impacted the ground a second time, and ejected two passengers in the direction the balloon was traveling. The basket landed on one of the ejected passengers and then was drug along the ground a few feet further before coming to a complete stop.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's decision to fly in forecasted unfavorable wind conditions that exceeded the balloon's capabilities. Full narrative available
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