FTW96LA059
FTW96LA059

On December 2, 1995, at 0930 mountain standard time, a Thunder & Colt, AX9-140, N9606A, dragged the basket while landing near Gallup, New Mexico. The commercial pilot was seriously injured and her six passengers were not injured. The balloon was being operated by the owner/operator under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The local flight originated about 1 hour before the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed.

During interviews, conducted by the FAA inspector, and on the enclosed Pilot/Operator report, the following information was stated. The pilot obtained a weather briefing about 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to the flight. About 30 to 45 minutes into the flight, the wind "increased significantly beyond the forecast." The winds pushed the balloon over a wilderness area with "high ridges, deep and narrow canyons." Several approaches beyond the wilderness were abandoned due to power lines. During the aborted attempts, the winds was increasing in velocity. About 5 minutes before landing the passengers were briefed on the "high wind landing procedures."

Police personnel at the landing site a few minutes after the accident measured the wind to be 260 degrees at 25 knots. They also reported that the winds "had forced the basket to turn over" and the pilot was "ejected at the second hit." Realizing that the balloon was dragging along without a pilot, the passengers grabbed the vent line and continued to pull it until the balloon came to a stop. The total drag distance was approximately 300 to 400 feet. The chase crew reported the winds "were traveling 30-35 mph."

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