On September 22, 2012, about 0754 mountain daylight time, a Lindstrand Balloons 210S, N608RR, collided with the terrain during a local flight in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pilot and seven passengers were not injured. One passenger suffered a serious injury. The balloon, which was operated by Rainbow Ryders, sustained minor damage. The revenue sightseeing flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 0742.

The pilot reported that the accident flight was the first time he had flown this particular balloon for the operator. He stated he did a thorough passenger briefing and preflight, and everything seemed functional. After the balloon was inflated, he set the parachute vent and the RDS (smart vent). He stated that it took two attempts to seat the parachute vent as it was off center. He stated that he loaded the passengers and the parachute vent seated properly and worked to his satisfaction.

The pilot reported that while at 500 feet above ground level, he allowed the balloon to cool as they approached the Rio Grande River. He stated he then noticed they were drifting too far east, so he gave a “small 2 second” pull on the parachute vent line in order to descend into a more desirable wind direction. The pilot stated that because of the initial trouble with seating the parachute vent, he looked up to make sure the parachute vent seated and noticed that there was a 12- to 20-inch gap between the vent and the balloon envelope. He applied a double burner, 6-second burn, in an attempt to re-center the vent, without success. The pilot stated he locked both burners in the on position; however, the balloon descended at a rate of 500 to 600 feet per minute. The pilot stated he turned off both quick shut off valves prior to the basket contacting a sand bar in the Rio Grande River.

The pilot stated that five of the eight passengers assumed the emergency landing position. The remaining three passengers went down into the basket. One of the passengers in the bottom of the basket suffered a broken ankle. The balloon envelope sustained most of the minor damage as it was being removed from the sandbar.

The balloon was taken to a certified repair station where the envelope was repaired and inspected, and an inflation test was conducted. The deflation and parachute vent systems on the balloon were also inspected. The tests and inspections failed to reveal any malfunction of the vent and deflation systems.

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