FTW02LA059
FTW02LA059

On December 18, 2001, at 0845 mountain standard time, a Cameron Balloons Z-90, N984ZS, landed hard near McIntosh, New Mexico. The balloon, which was registered to the Galles Motor Company of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and operated by the pilot, was not damaged. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the two balloon rated passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight originated from Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 0800, and was destined for Moriarty, New Mexico.

The pilot received a weather briefing at 0605 from the Albuquerque Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). The pilot was briefed that the wind condition on top of the Sandia Mountains, located on the east side of Albuquerque, was from the northwest at 28 mph. The pilot reported in a written statement that "we decided that it was a little fast but doable." According to the pilot, the wind was light and variable at the time of departure. The balloon ascended to 11,250 feet msl where its ground speed increased to 52 mph as it crossed over the Sandia Mountains. After crossing the mountains, the balloon descended to 500 feet agl, where it encountered a 32 mph wind. As the flight continued, the pilot selected a field and attempted a high wind landing. The pilot warned his passengers "this was going to be a rough landing and to hold on tight." During the landing sequence, the pilot and a passenger were ejected from the basket. The pilot sustained a broken shoulder and broken ribs; the passenger was unhurt. The balloon then took off and ascended to 1,000 feet with the remaining balloon rated passenger. The passenger took control of the balloon and landed safely 6 miles from where the pilot and passenger were ejected.

The pilot reported that he was unable to obtain weather information for his destination prior to the flight due to the lack of weather reporting facilities east of the Sandia Mountains.

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