DEN00LA062
DEN00LA062

On March 18, 2000, approximately 0950 mountain standard time, an Adams A55S, N4035T, registered to and operated by the pilot, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during landing near Los Lunas, New Mexico. The private pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated near Los Lunas at 0910.

The pilot was participating in the St. Patrick's Balloon Rally. A weather briefing was given to all participants. Calm surface winds were reported, and winds aloft were greater than 20 knots. The higher wind level was expected to drop later that morning. The pilot said that on a previous flight, the winds aloft had been negligible, then varied between southeasterly at 5 knots to westerly at 3 knots. He landed in an open field at 0900 to change passengers.

The pilot said that during the second flight, the wind was "variable and slow," then became "predominantly to the west at approximately 2 to 3 knots." The pilot then landed the balloon in an open field "unassisted and standing up." The envelope was not deflated at that time because the wind was calm and the chase crew had not yet arrived. When the chase crew did arrive, "the wind seemed to change direction to the southeast," then the wind speed "increased dramatically. . .from the northwest at approximately 10 to 15 knots." The pilot ordered the chase crew, which had been holding on to the basket, to release their hold and stand clear. The balloon ascended about 15 to 20 feet. The pilot said the "throat collapsed and [he] could not burn to compensate for false lift." He attempted to vent the envelope, but the top would not open because it was cold from standing on the ground. The pilot said the false lift dissipated and the balloon struck the ground, dragging across the field at 10 to 15 knots. The envelope eventually collapsed. One passenger jumped out of the basket; the other remained inside with the pilot.

Examination of the balloon system by an FAA inspector revealed extensive damage to the woven basket frame where it joins the floor. Additionally, one of four support braces was broken.

Winds at Albuquerque International Airport, located about 21 miles north of the accident site, were from 320 degrees at 24 knots, with gusts to 30 knots.

The pilot received his private pilot certificate, limited to hot air balloons with an airborne heater, on December 1, 1999. All of his flight time had been in the Adams A55S. He reported the following: total time, 45:20 hours; pilot-in-command, 32:10 hours; last 90 days, 15:45 hours; last 30 days, 5:50 hours.

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