FTW05CA001
FTW05CA001

On October 3, 2004, approximately 1906 central daylight time, an Aerostar S-60A hot-air balloon, N70466, owned and operated by United Van Lines LLC of Fenton, Missouri, sustained substantial damage following a hard landing and uncontrolled ascent into a group of poles and power lines. The commercial pilot and one of the passengers fell out of the basket during the hard landing and sustained minor injuries. The other passenger remained in the basket during the ascent to the poles and power lines, but was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the sightseeing flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The local flight originated from Round Rock, Texas, approximately 1745.

In a telephone interview with an NTSB representative, the pilot reported that after obtaining a weather briefing from the San Angelo Flight Service Station, he departed Round Rock, Texas, with two passengers onboard. At that time, the wind was out of the northeast at three to five knots. After approximately one hour, the pilot attempted to land the balloon at several different sites, but realized that they were not suitable due to their small size. The pilot then noticed an unforecasted rain cell and some lightning to the north, and unforecasted high wind began to carry the balloon at approximately 15 to 20 knots. The pilot continued on in a southwesterly direction headed to the northwest sector of Austin, Texas, at a speed of up to 25 knots, to find a more suitable field to land in. Approximately 20 minutes later, the pilot spotted an open area in a soccer field near a school and elected to land there. The field was lower than the surrounding area, and the pilot thought that it might provide some shelter from the high wind.

The pilot added that the balloon descended quickly into the field at approximately 20 miles per hour. The pilot instructed the passengers to hold on tight and bend their knees to prepare for the hard landing. When the basket hit the ground, the pilot and male passenger were ejected from the basket. Without the weight of the pilot and passenger, the balloon continued to drag the basket across the field with the female passenger still onboard. The basket then collided with a chain-link fence, crossed over a road, ascended, and finally collided with power lines and electrical poles near a group of trees. The basket caught on one of these poles and the balloon envelope was lodged in the poles and lines. The power lines emitted a spark, but there was no fire. The high wind ripped the envelope of the balloon, which deflated after approximately five minutes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector that responded to the accident reported substantial damage to the envelope of the balloon.

At the time of the accident, the pilot had accrued a total of 2,315 hours of balloon flight time, of which 1,100 hours were in the same make and model.

At 1851, the automated weather observing system at Camp Mabry, Texas, a nearby military weather station, reported variable wind at 5 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, few clouds at 4,700 feet, temperature 81 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 21 degrees Fahrenheit, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.13 inches of Mercury.

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