NYC04LA078
NYC04LA078

On February 28, 2004, at 1630 eastern standard time, a Raven Industries Rally RX7 balloon, N4110M, was substantially damaged during takeoff from a field in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The certificated private pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors interviewed several witnesses after the accident. According to the witnesses, the balloon was to be launched from a field about 300 feet long and 100 feet wide, with 35-foot tall power lines lining the north edge of the field.

The balloon was laid out on the ground about 200 feet south of the power lines, and inflation was "normal." As the balloon began to stand up, the wind increased in velocity and became gusty. At the pilot's request, the ground crew members placed weight in the basket. The wind then pushed the balloon forward, and the basket tipped slightly. The balloon began to "scoot" along the ground, and the pilot released the tie-down line, which was secured to the vehicle trailer. The pilot then activated the burner and instructed the crew to "weight off." The balloon ascended to an altitude of about 5 to 10 feet, as it traveled north. It skimmed the ground for about 30 feet, and then settled back to the surface. The pilot was observed activating the burner several times; however, the balloon did not rise as expected. As the balloon approached the power lines, the pilot turned off the burner and closed the fuel tank valves. He pulled the redline to open the vent, and just prior to impacting the power lines, he ducked inside the basket.

The balloon suspension cables at two corners of the basket contacted the power lines, which severed the cables and the basket to tip 90 degrees to a horizontal attitude. The balloon continued to move toward the north, and a third suspension cable came in contact with the power lines and was severed. The fourth suspension cable then separated from the balloon envelope and the basket fell about 35 feet to the ground in a horizontal attitude. The balloon envelope, free of the basket, continued about 1,500 feet to the north, and came to rest in a residential area.

The winds reported at an airport about 9 miles to the north, at 1554, were variable at 4 knots. At 1654 the winds were from 150 degrees at 4 knots.

An autopsy and toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot by the Office of the Coroner, Lexington, Kentucky.

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