The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.
Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf
UP UP AWAY HOT AIR BALLOON CO: http://registry.faa.gov/N9015Y
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Charlotte FSDO-68
NTSB Identification: ERA17LA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, October 22, 2016 in Mount Ulla, NC
Aircraft: AEROSTAR INTERNATIONAL RX8, registration: N9015Y
Injuries: 1 Serious, 4 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 October 22, 2016, about 0838 eastern daylight time, an Aerostar International, Inc. RX-8 balloon, N9015Y, registered to and operated by Up Up Away Hot Air Balloon Company, incurred minor damage while landing near Mount Ulla, North Carolina. The balloon was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a revenue sightseeing flight. The commercial pilot and three passengers sustained no injuries, while the remaining passenger was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated about 53 minutes earlier from Statesville Regional Airport (SVH), Statesville, North Carolina.
The pilot stated that the balloon was part of the Carolina BalloonFest, and prior to the flight he attended a pilot briefing and was informed that the wind would be picking up after 0900. In advance of the flight he informed the passengers of the procedures related to landing stance, to hold the handles, and to keep their arms and legs inside the basket
After takeoff the balloon drifted in an east-southeasterly direction, and, due to the time aloft and spotting of a suitable field, the pilot elected to land in a hay field. Prior to landing, he informed the passengers that that they needed to hold on and to expect a "bouncy and hard landing." On approach to the field, he noticed the surface winds had significantly increased and informed the passengers to face the direction of travel with their knees bent, and that after touchdown the basket may tip on its side. He indicated that he told one passenger who was taking pictures, to put the camera down and hold on, then informed all that they were going to bounce. Prior to touchdown he pulled the deflation line, and after ground contact the basket leaned on its side and one passenger put her arms out of the basket. He then informed all to keep their arms and legs inside, and another passenger grabbed the passenger who had put her arms outside. The basket then became airborne shortly followed by ground contact. After coming to rest, the passenger who had put her arms outside at touchdown complained of pain. The pilot called 911 and the injured passenger was transported to a hospital for treatment.