MIA08CA193
MIA08CA193

According to the balloon pilot, he had checked several weather sources and sent up several helium balloons to check local winds. The flight path and speed of the test balloons confirmed the weather forecasts obtained earlier, and he saw no significant winds either on the ground or aloft. Early in the flight, the pilot noticed that the winds aloft had increased significantly. He descended to assess how close to the ground the increased winds were, so that he could start to plan for a landing. As the balloon came close to treetop level, he experienced increased wind speeds, and decided to land as soon as possible. The pilot prepared the passengers for a fast, hard, drag landing. As he approached the landing site, he allowed the balloon basket to drag through the top of trees in an effort to reduce speed. The pilot estimated that they decreased their horizontal balloon speed by 50 percent. Once clear of the trees, and over the landing site, he vented the balloon to facilitate a fast descent into the field. He informed the passengers that they would have a very hard landing and to get ready for impact. Two passengers had squatted in the balloon to avoid contact with the treetops, and never returned to the correct landing position, as previously instructed by the pilot. Those passengers sustained serious injuries during the hard landing. The reported wind at a nearby airport, about 30 minutes prior to the accident, was from 190 degrees at 5 knots. Examination of the balloon by the Federal Aviation Administration found minor damage to the balloon’s basket, and no preimpact structural or mechanical failures.

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