Thursday, March 31, 2016

Firefly 8B-15, N3180S, Eagles Wings Hot Air Balloons: Accident occurred March 12, 2016 in Rock Hill, York County, South Carolina

EAGLES WINGS HOT AIR BALLOONS:   http://registry.faa.gov/N3180S

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA West Columbia FSDO-13

NTSB Identification: GAA16LA172
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, March 12, 2016 in Rock Hill, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/16/2016
Aircraft: BALLOON WORKS FIREFLY8B, registration: N3180S
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The commercial pilot was operating a balloon sightseeing trip with two passengers on board. According to the pilot, after the balloon cleared trees during the approach to a field, a wind gust and downdraft caused it to land hard; the balloon sustained no damage. The pilot reported that, for the landing sequence, both passengers were instructed to put their feet and knees together, slightly bend their knees, and hold onto two places in the basket. During the hard landing, one passenger was thrown into another passenger and impacted her leg with his knee, which resulted in her sustaining a serious injury.

The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the balloon that would have prevented normal operation. The closest weather reporting system, located about 5.5 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, and the pilot reported that the wind was from 110 degrees and between about 3 and 5 knots around the time of the accident. It is likely that the pilot did not adequately compensate for the wind during the landing approach, which resulted in the hard landing and the passenger’s serious injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate compensation for wind, which resulted in the balloon landing hard and a passenger sustaining a serious injury.

On March 12, 2016 about 0900 eastern standard time, a Balloon Works Firefly 8B-15 balloon, N3180S, landed hard in a field in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The pilot and one passenger were not injured. A second passenger sustained serious injuries during the landing sequence. The balloon was registered to Eagle's Wings Hot Air Balloons LLC of Rock Hill, and operated by the pilot, as a day, visual flight rules, passenger flight under 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight originated from private property in Rock Hill, and was conducted in the local area.

According to the pilot, after clearing trees during the approach to a field, a wind gust and downdraft caused a hard landing. One passenger was thrown into the second passenger, impacting her leg with his knee. The second passenger sustained serious injury. The pilot reported that for the landing sequence, both passengers were instructed to put their feet and knees together, slightly bend their knees, and hold onto two places in the basket. 

The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the balloon prior to the flight that would have resulted in abnormal operation of the balloon. The balloon sustained no damage.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest weather reporting station to the accident site was Rock Hill-York County Airport (UZA), about 5.5 nautical miles to the northeast, which reported about 6 minutes prior to the time of the accident, that the wind was 3 knots from 110 degrees. 

The pilot reported that the wind condition at the accident site was 5 knots from 110 degrees.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Landing and Passenger Securement

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published the Balloon Flying Handbook FAA-H-8083-11A (2008). This handbook discusses the various aspects of landing a balloon and states in part:

In any branch of aviation, takeoff and landing are the most critical maneuvers. In ballooning, landing is number one. The vast majority of ballooning accidents and injuries occur on landing.

The leading factor in accidents is wind. Highly variable surface winds often speed up, slow down, stop, turn, and even go backward.

This handbook also discusses passenger securement during the landing and states in part:


Up to this point, the typical balloon flight has been relatively gentle, and most passengers are not mentally prepared for the shock that can occur when a 7,000 pound balloon contacts the ground. Passengers should be reminded to hold on tight. The pilot should advise the passengers of correct places to hold, whether they are factory-built passenger handles or places in the balloon's basket the pilot considers appropriate.

NTSB Identification: GAA16LA172
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, March 12, 2016 in Rock Hill, SC
Aircraft: BALLOON WORKS FIREFLY8B, registration: N3180S
Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On March 12, 2016 about 0900 eastern standard time, a Balloon Works Firefly 8B-15 balloon, N3180S, landed hard in a field in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The pilot and one passenger were not injured. A second passenger sustained serious injuries during the landing sequence. The balloon was registered to Eagle's Wings Hot Air Balloons LLC of Rock Hill, and operated by the pilot, as a day, visual flight rules, passenger flight under 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight originated from private property in Rock Hill, and was conducted in the local area.

According to the pilot, after clearing trees during the approach to a field, a gust and downdraft caused a hard landing. One passenger was thrown into the second passenger, impacting her leg with his knee. The second passenger sustained serious injury.


The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the balloon prior to the flight that would have resulted in abnormal operation of the balloon. The balloon sustained no damage.

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