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N2190S accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Albuquerque, NM
35.084491°N, 106.651137°W
Tail number N2190S
Accident date 09 Oct 2003
Aircraft type Firefly Balloons Galaxy 11B
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 9, 2003, at 0920 mountain daylight time, a Firefly Balloons, Inc., Galaxy 11B balloon, N2190S, impacted terrain during a high-wind landing near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Three passengers were not injured; however, the pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries and six passengers sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan had been filed for the local flight being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight had originated at approximately 0930.

According to the pilot, the Albuquerque automated Flight Service Station reported that the winds were variable at 6 knots at the surface, 7 knots at 9,000 feet, and 6 knots at 12,000 feet. He stated that the winds were approximately 3 knots, according to his GPS, at the time the flight departed. During the flight, at 5,700 feet msl, he noticed that the winds started picking up to "12 to 15 mph." When he descended the balloon to check the winds, he noticed that the winds had increased to "16 to 22 mph," so he decided to climb back up to look for a larger area in which to land.

The pilot stated that he briefed his passengers and prepared them for a high-wind landing. As the balloon descended, it came out of the "12 to 14 mph winds into 16 to 20 mph winds." The pilot stated that he had to "burn hard" to control the balloon as it came into the faster winds. When the balloon leveled out at approximately 2 feet off the ground, he pulled hard on the vent line. At that time, he "didn't turn off the pilot lights, because I [he] knew that with all the extra was going to bounce up." When the balloon struck the ground, it bounced approximately 20 feet into the air. On the second touchdown, the pilot turned off the pilot light. As the balloon slid across the ground, its basket rotated approximately 90 degrees and then tumbled on its side. When the basket tumbled, the pilot felt a "flash back from the burner." At that point, the pilot noticed that two passengers had been thrown from the basket. One of them had caught her foot on the basket and the balloon was dragging her across the ground. The balloon came to a stop approximately 800 feet from the first touchdown point. Of the six seriously injured passengers, two were airlifted to the hospital.

The pilot stated that when he went back to the balloon, he identified that "both pilot lights were off" and he found a "jacket wrapped around the blast valve handle."

According to the pilot's current logbook, he had logged a total flight time of 1202.8 hours in all balloons, of which a total of 18.5 hours was in make and model.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control during a high-wind landing, resulting in a hard landing, the subsequent tipping of the balloon's basket, a post impact flash fire, and the ejection of two passengers. Contributing factors include the high wind conditions and the rough/uneven terrain.

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