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N844LB accident description

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Tail numberN844LB
Accident dateSeptember 07, 2008
Aircraft typeLindstrand Balloons 150A
LocationPhoenixville, PA
Near 40.128889 N, -75.595 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On September 7, 2008, at 1836 eastern daylight time, a Lindstrand Balloons USA Model 150A, N844LB, was substantially damaged by fire during a landing. The certificated commercial pilot was killed, four passengers were seriously injured, and three passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight which departed from an empty lot approximately 5 miles from the accident site. The sightseeing flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located at 40 degrees, 07.740 north latitude, 075 degrees, 35.723 west longitude, at an elevation of 283 feet mean sea level (msl). The debris path was on a 088 degree magnetic heading, and measured 190 feet from the first impact marks to the basket location. The envelope extended another 140 feet beyond the basket.

According to eyewitness and passenger reports, the balloon was performing a landing into an open field that was located approximately 2 miles from the originally-intended destination. The rectangular basket was traveling with its large dimension as the leading side. The basket contacted the ground, "bounced and skipped across the ground," and temporarily stopped in an upright position. It then rolled to the right, returned to the upright position, and then rolled over onto its left side. Passengers reported feeling and seeing the flames coming from the area of the basket that contained the three fuel tanks.

The MINI-T type basket was composed of metal tubing, padding, plywood, and woven wicker. It was certificated for a maximum capacity of eight persons, including the pilot. A fuel cylinder compartment was located on the left side of the basket. The fuel compartment contained two 20 gallon stainless steel fuel cylinders, and a 10 gallon aluminum fuel cylinder positioned between the stainless steel cylinders. A quarter-turn fuel shut-off valve was attached to the top of each stainless steel cylinder, and a gate-type shut-off valve was installed on the aluminum cylinder. The valve on the forward fuel cylinder was found in the partially closed position. The valve on the aft fuel cylinder was found in the full open position. The valve on the center aluminum cylinder was damaged by fire and its position was not readily known.

The remains of the Lindstrand Sqieeze Trigger Main Valve double burner were co-located with the vapourisation coils, piezo tube, jet ring, main burner valve, cross-over burner, pilot light regulator and pilot light valve. All components exhibited fire damage.

The 24 gore A-Type envelope was separated from the basket, and was located 47 feet from the basket. The envelope mouth fabric, the nomex, and nylon panels exhibited fire damage. The crown ring was found with all 24 retaining cords still attached. Continuity of the crown, vent and rotating vent lines from the bottom to the top of the envelope could not be confirmed due to fire damage.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, instrument airplane, and lighter-than-air free balloon. The latter included a limitation for hot air balloon with airborne heater. The pilot also held flight and ground instructor certificates. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued in March 2008, and the pilot reported 1,145 hours of total flight experience as of that date.

The 1840 reported weather at Wings Field Airport (LOM), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, located approximately 18 miles to the east of the accident site, included winds from 250 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 22 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 18 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.00 inches of mercury.

The wreckage was retained by the National Transportation Safety Board for further examination.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.