NTSB Identification: DEN08LA005.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, October 09, 2007 in Rio Rancho, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2008
Aircraft: Sproul 72K-TET, registration: N72KX
Injuries: 1 Serious,2 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 hot air free balloon was participating in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The pilot received a preflight FAA weather briefing in which the wind was forecasted to be between 3 mph and 5 mph. Once airborne, the pilot realized the winds were "quite variable" at different altitudes. The balloon was at 2,000 feet agl and traveling about 8 mph. By observing other balloons and talking to other pilots via radio, he discovered the winds closer to the ground were "quite fast and going in the opposite direction." One pilot who had landed had reported his balloon was going about 25 mph at 500 feet agl, then it slowed to about 8 mph when it got close to the ground. The accident pilot descended and encountered 25 mph winds. As he got closer to the ground, the balloon slowed "but only to about 15 to 16 mph." He attempted to land on the north side of a new housing development, but the wind carried the balloon to the south side of the development. There were brick retaining walls separating the different plots of land awaiting new house construction. The basket struck a street curb, scraped the top of a brick wall perpendicular to the balloon's flight path, and then impacted a second wall. The basket dragged along the wall, and then stopped, and the envelope draped over the other side of the wall. Upon impact with the second wall, a passenger was thrown against the fuel tank and sustained serious injuries. The pilot said the winds in other parts of the valley only a few miles away "were much less." In post-accident discussions with other pilots who had been involved in accidents and incidents that morning, the consensus was the winds had developed "faster than expected." Other pilots reported being pushed into the ground at low altitudes. They referred to these phenomena as a "false heavy."

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

The pilot's inadequate inflight planning/judgment, and his selection of unsuitable terrain on which to make a landing. Contributing factors in this accident were the unfavorable wind, and the pilot misjudging his airspeed.

Full narrative available

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