LAX93LA279
LAX93LA279

On July 5, 1993, at 0915 Pacific daylight time, a passenger on board a Raven S60A balloon, N35GS, sustained a broken ankle during a landing near Coloma, California. The balloon was owned and operated by the pilot, and was engaged in for-hire sight seeing flight operations. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the operation. The balloon was not damaged. One passenger sustained serious injuries; however, neither the certificated commercial balloon pilot nor the one remaining passenger were injured. The flight originated from a field near Coloma, California, on the day of the mishap at 0730 as a local area sight seeing flight.

According to the pilot's statement, after a 40 minute flight he descended into an oak tree studded field for landing. The pilot noted that he had used this field for landings on 12 to 15 occasions. During the approach, the basket grazed a tree top. The pilot said the tree contact slowed the balloon's progress slightly, but did "not deflect the balloon from it's flight path." The balloon basket made contact with the ground about 30 feet beyond the tree in what the pilot described as a "stand-up landing, with little or no drag across the ground." The pilot reported that the injured passenger's ankle "went out from under her and twisted, breaking the ankle in three places."

An FAA inspector from the Sacramento, California, Flight Standards District Office, interviewed the pilot. The inspector stated that the pilot told him that he intentionally contacts the tree tops to slow the balloon down prior to touchdown. The injured passenger told the FAA inspector that the pilot told her that he was low on fuel and made only one burn correction during the final descent. In the interview, the pilot denied the passenger's allegations.

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