On October 20, 2001, at 0930 eastern daylight time, an Aerostar S60-A hot air balloon, N63069, was substantially damaged during a collision with transmission wires in Luxor, Pennsylvania. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured, and the four passengers received minor injuries. No flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated in Bovard, Pennsylvania. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the sightseeing flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to the pilot, he flew over a power sub-station that was on top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill, there was a road, a farmhouse, and cattle in the field where he intended to land. When the balloon was approximately 600 feet altitude and descending on the approach to the landing area, he briefed the passengers on the landing procedure.
When the balloon was approximately 200 feet above, and approximately 300 yards from the landing area in a 6- to 7-knot winds, it turned slightly left, then was "forced down." Both burners were activated to arrest the descent, but the speed picked up horizontally toward power lines located along the road.
Because there was not enough time to rip out the top cap, the pilot turned off the fuel supply and cleared the fuel lines. He instructed the passengers to get all the way into the basket, then the balloon collided with the wires.
The pilot said that the balloon departed with about 40 gallons of propane and, based on the condition of the balloon and the duration of the flight, that approximately 20 gallons of propane were used.
According to one of the passengers, 18 people were divided between 3 balloons for the day's flight. There were eight people in one balloon, and five in each of the other two balloons. She, her husband, another couple, and the pilot were in the accident balloon.
After about 1 hour and 10 minutes of flight, the balloon approached the landing site, in a field near the Luxor Post Office. The other two balloons were ahead of them.
As the balloon approached the landing site, the passenger noticed the power lines ahead, but thought the balloon would rise and cross over them. Instead, the balloon struck the wires, the passenger was showered with sparks, and her hair caught fire. When asked about strong winds or downdrafts, she said that the winds were "fine" and that they had not experienced any problems.
A second passenger reported that he turned and looked at the wires a few seconds before the collision, and wondered why the pilot didn't respond or activate the burners. It was almost "dead silent" in the balloon before they hit the wires, and nothing was said beforehand. The balloon had been pretty responsive, and he just kept wondering why the pilot didn't activate the burners.
According to a third passenger, the flight was uneventful until the balloon approached the wires. Everything was "going great" until they drifted directly into the lines. Afterwards, the pilot said he made a couple of attempts to add propane, and climb over the wires, but she does not think that happened. It was just a calm, peaceful landing into the wires. She added that the burners were loud, and she did not remember hearing them before wire contact. At the time, she wondered why the burners were not activated, and when they would clear the wires.
When asked about strong winds or downdrafts, she said that there were no wind gusts, and repeated that the burners were not activated. The pilot kept repeating, "Boy, what a wind gust. That was quite a wind gust," but she felt no gusts.
When the balloon struck the wires, there were loud pops, showers of sparks, and the basket, clothing, and hair caught fire.
According to the fourth passenger, there was no downdraft and the balloon just drifted into the wires. He never heard the burners, which were "really loud," and the pilot never activated them.
After the balloon came to rest, a fireman asked about the fuel situation and the pilot responded: "Don't worry about it, I have nothing, it's empty."
The pilot reported 2,130 hours of balloon experience, 200 hours of which were in make and model. He reported 34 hours of experience in the 90 days prior to the accident.
At 0845, the weather reported at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 5 miles northwest of Luxor, included a broken ceiling at 5,600 feet with wind from 220 degrees at 8 knots.