On February 17, 1996, about 0830 hours mountain standard time, a passenger sustained fractures of foot bones during a landing in an Aerostar S-77A balloon, N6317U, near Tucson, Arizona. The balloon was being operated as Hot Air Expeditions, Inc., of Scottsdale, Arizona, for the for-hire local area sightseeing flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The balloon was not damaged. The commercial pilot and eight passengers were not injured; however, one passenger sustained serious injuries. The flight originated from a field near Tucson on the day of the accident about 0740.

In a telephone interview conducted on May 6, 1996, the pilot reported that the winds were nearly calm when the flight departed. The balloon drifted in a northerly direction and the pilot elected to land prior to crossing a range of low hills and selected a flat area being prepared for a new housing development. The pilot described the winds at the time of the landing as about 8 knots. The balloon was descending on a flat trajectory towards the preselected spot when the pilot noticed a drainage canal under construction just beyond. The pilot said he was concerned about the balloon ending up in the canal and ceased venting in order to go beyond the ditch. He said the balloon landed firmly, not hard, and bounced several times before coming to a stop on it's side.

The pilot stated that he briefed the passengers before the flight on the proper body postures and positions for landing. After the landing the passenger complained of discomfort in her foot. The pilot reported that he asked the injured passenger if she wanted to be taken for medical attention and the passenger declined.

The injured passenger first reported the injury to the Scottsdale Flight Standards District Office on March 20, 1996. At that time, no details concerning the make, model, or registration number of the balloon were known. The information was confirmed on May 3.

The injured passenger and other passengers on the flight provided written statements. In her statement, the passenger reported that the pilot briefed them prior to departure on landing procedures. The passengers said the balloon descended toward the landing spot and "all of a sudden we hit the ground really hard, the balloon basket fell over onto it's side, then, back to an upright position, and the next thing we knew we were up in the air again." The passengers further stated, "then we came down at an angle, and bounced on the ground five times." The passenger stated that she felt a sharp pain in her right foot as the balloon was bouncing on the ground.

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