LAX97LA169
LAX97LA169

On April 27, 1997, at 0815 Pacific daylight time, a Cameron N-77 balloon, N16067, tipped over during landing on a brush covered hillside near Temecula, California, and ignited a grass fire which consumed the balloon. The balloon was owned and operated by General Motors Corporation of Pontiac, Michigan, and was engaged in a race competition event. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The balloon and about an acre of grass was destroyed in the ground fire. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight originated near Temecula on the morning of the accident about 0700.

FAA inspectors from the Riverside, California, Flight Standards District Office responded to the accident, examined the site, and interviewed the pilot. The pilot reported that after 45 minutes of flight he began looking for a place to land which was accessible by the ground crew. The pilot told the inspectors that the balloon was drifting toward an area of hills and he spotted a hill with a flat top, which had recently been graded off in preparation for construction. A road sufficient for recovery of the balloon ran up the spine of the connecting ridge line. The pilot then began a descent toward the landing spot, but overshot the hilltop and touched down on the far slope. The balloon gondola touched down on a large rock hidden in tall vegetation just as the pilot pulled the rip panel open to deflate the envelope and the balloon tipped over on its side. The pilot had left one pilot light on during the touchdown sequence, and the pilot flame ignited a grass fire. The pilot, along with a nearby resident, attempted to extinguish the fire with fire extinguishers, but were unsuccessful and the balloon was consumed in the fire. Fire department vehicles monitoring the balloon competition reached the site in about an hour and extinguished the grass fire.

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