Sunday, March 03, 2019

Controlled Flight into Terrain: Balloon Works Firefly 7-15, N7252H; accident occurred October 10, 2018 in Placitas, Sandoval County, New Mexico

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albuquerque, New Mexico

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Placitas, NM
Accident Number: WPR19TA005
Date & Time: 10/10/2018, 0943 MDT
Registration: N7252H
Aircraft: Balloon Works FIREFLY 7
Aircraft Damage: None
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 2 Serious, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Air Race/Show 


The private pilot reported that, as he descended and maneuvered the balloon to check the wind for landing, the balloon impacted a hill that was higher than what he expected. He reported that the balloon's airspeed was between 15 and 20 mph when the collision occurred. Both passengers sustained a serious injury during the impact with the hill. Following the impact, the pilot initiated a burn to gain altitude, and shortly after, he landed the balloon with the assistance of his ground crew.

The pilot reported no mechanical failures or malfunctions with the balloon that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to properly estimate the height of terrain while descending the balloon, which resulted in the balloon impacting a hill and passengers sustaining serious injuries.


Personnel issues
Situational awareness - Pilot (Cause)
Expectation/assumption - Pilot

Environmental issues
Mountainous/hilly terrain - Effect on operation (Cause)

Factual Information

On October 10, 2018, about 0943 mountain daylight time, a Balloon Works Firefly 7-15 balloon, N7252H, experienced a hard landing in a field about 4 miles west of Placitas, New Mexico. The pilot was no injured and the two passengers sustained serious injuries. The balloon was not damaged. The balloon was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico, about 0851. The flight's destination was a landing area that was near the accident site.

According to the pilot, as he descended and maneuvered the balloon to check the wind for landing, he inadvertently collided with a hill that was at a higher elevation than what he expected. He reported that the balloon's airspeed was between 15 to 20 mph during the collision. The balloon impacted the terrain firmly and both passengers sustained a broken ankle. The pilot subsequently landed the balloon uneventfully.

The forecast wind at Albuquerque, located 17 nautical miles from the accident site, was 4 knots, while the wind reported by the pilot was between 6 to 8 knots. The pilot reported no mechanical failure or malfunction with the balloon that would have precluded normal operation.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 52, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: None
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: None
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/19/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 437.8 hours (Total, all aircraft), 437.8 hours (Total, this make and model), 437.8 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 9.9 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 8 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 1.4 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Balloon Works
Registration: N7252H
Model/Series: FIREFLY 7 15
Aircraft Category: Balloon
Year of Manufacture: 2001
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Balloon
Serial Number: F7-1103
Landing Gear Type: None
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 07/30/2018, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1750 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Airframe Total Time: 425.3 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer:
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series:
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power:
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: ABQ, 5355 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 17 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1552 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 21°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 5000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 170°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C / 2°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Albuquerque, NM
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Placitas, NM
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0851 MDT
Type of Airspace: Unknown

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: None
Passenger Injuries: 2 Serious
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious, 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  35.307500, -106.491111 (est)

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