NTSB Identification: DFW08LA088.
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Accident occurred Sunday, March 30, 2008 in Questa, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/30/2008
Aircraft: Balloon Works Firefly 9, registration: N72345
Injuries: 5 Serious,1 Minor.

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 commercial pilot stated that he and the five passengers departed in his hot air balloon and drifted down a local gorge. The flight was normal until it was time to land. As the pilot descended to a large open grass field (where he has landed many times before), he told the passengers that they should bend their knees. When the balloon was about 20 feet agl, a large gust of wind caused the balloon to descend rapidly with a forward motion until it hit the ground. The impact was hard enough to eject four of the passengers and to break one of the burner can mounts, which caused it to point downward. The balloon then caught fire as it ascended approximately 30 feet high with the pilot and one of the passengers still onboard. The pilot said the he attempted to turn off the pilot light to the burner cans, but to no avail. He told the passenger not to jump, because the balloon was now starting to descend. The balloon then hit the ground again hard, and the pilot and the passenger were ejected. The balloon then bounced a few more times as it traveled north towards rising terrain where it became fully engulfed in flames and was incinerated. The pilot said that before the flight, he obtained weather information from the local airports and also released pilot balloons to determine wind direction. The winds were calm at the beginning of the flight and then "arced" toward the north-northwest while en route; however, he did not know the speed of the wind. Other wise, the weather as clear of clouds and unlimited visibility. The pilot stated that the balloon most likely encountered a roll cloud from the nearby ridge.

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

The balloon's encounter with a wind gust/downdraft during landing, which resulted in a hard landing.

Full narrative available

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