NTSB Identification: ERA10LA511
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, September 29, 2010 in Adriatic Sea, Unknown
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2011
Aircraft: BALLONBAU WORNER GMBH NL-1000/STU, registration: N801NM
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
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 race crew was participating in a cross-continent race in Europe. Despite the advice and counsel of a renowned meteorologist who specialized in balloon-race route planning, the crew chose a route of flight where thunderstorms and other adverse weather phenomenon were predicted. Communications transcripts from Italian air traffic control revealed that, in the last moments of the flight, the crew reported thunder and lightning in the vicinity of the balloon, that they were losing altitude due to the snow, and ultimately stated that they were descending very fast towards the sea. The Prosecutor's Office in the Court of Lucia, Italy, claimed jurisdiction over the wreckage and the crew's remains and appointed a technical advisor to conduct an investigation. His examination of the envelope revealed thermal damage in the lower half of the envelope consistent with a lightning strike. Further examination revealed shredding in the lower half, and slices in the upper half consistent with a hydrogen detonation. The basket was deformed by impact damage, but displayed no evidence of thermal damage.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The crew's intentional flight into known adverse weather conditions, which resulted in destruction of the balloon envelope by lightning strike and the subsequent uncontrolled descent to the sea. Full narrative available
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