NTSB Identification: CEN10CA010
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, October 05, 2009 in Albuquerque, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/29/2009
Aircraft: AEROSTAR INTERNATIONAL RX-7, registration: N9126K
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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.

During a morning balloon competition flight the pilot was attempting to maneuver the balloon in order to drop a marker on a target. When approaching the target area the pilot said she was flying approximately 15 feet above ground level when she “burned to ascend” over a steel frame sponsor’s tent on the edge of the competition target area. The balloon cleared the rear of the tent, but the basket struck the front edge. A review of a video recording of the event shows that the impact abruptly tilted the basket more than 45 degrees. The passenger was ejected and fell approximately 30 feet to the ground. Suddenly minus the weight of the missing passenger the balloon then ascended rapidly and the pilot attempted to correct by venting. The rapid climb and the venting at the top of the balloon envelope caused the mouth of the balloon to close and the balloon then began descending rapidly. The pilot was unable to correct the descent with a burn because the closed mouth was being burned by the flames from the burner. The balloon landed hard and sustained minor damage. The passenger and pilot both sustained serious injuries.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance from a known obstacle and the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the balloon during the sudden climb following the ejection of the passenger.

Full narrative available

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