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N266LB accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.149166°N, 106.774723°W
Nearest city Albuquerque, NM
35.084491°N, 106.651137°W
8.3 miles away
Tail number N266LB
Accident date 27 Sep 2015
Aircraft type Lindstrand LBL69A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 27, 2015, about 0745 mountain daylight time, a Lindstrand 69A lighter than air balloon with airborne heater, N266LB, experienced a hard landing near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pilot sustained serious injuries and the pilot-rated passenger, a commercial balloon pilot, was not injured. The balloon was not damaged. The balloon was registered to a private individual and was being operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that originated near the Double Eagle II Airport (AEG), Albuquerque, New Mexico, about 0700 mdt.

The pilot reported the purpose of the flight was to get current in landings and to practice steep approaches, the kind she might need to make to get into small clearings between houses and trees during the upcoming Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. She said before the flight she checked the weather with Flight Service and the forecast she received was good. She also said that the balloon she flew that day was a standard balloon, which was different from the Lindstrand 90 racing balloon that she usually flew. She said the racing balloon climbs and descends faster than the standard balloon. The pilot and her friend, a commercial balloon pilot who was coming along to observe her landings for her currency, took off from the west mesa and she began practicing landings, her goal to land on every dirt road. She said they were 45 minutes into the flight when she made a steep approach to a dirt road and misjudged the descent. She expected the balloon to react differently than it did. When they hit the edge of the road, both of her knees buckled and she was pitched forward and downward onto the bolster of the basket. The pilot said she felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. She said that at that time she did not know she was injured. She got out of the balloon and let the other pilot continue flying the balloon while she rode in the chase vehicle. After the other pilot completed the flight, she said she did not help with putting the balloon away, but did go back to the launch site and tail-gate with the other pilot and the balloon crew. She said that when she got home, she was still sore, so she put ice on her ribs and took a nap, thinking the pain would go away. When she woke up from her nap, she was still in serious pain and realized something more was wrong with her. She went to an urgent care clinic where her ribs were x-rayed. The doctor told her she had 7 broken ribs and that because of her age; she needed to go to the University of New Mexico Trauma Unit. There they did a computed tomography (CT) scan of her ribs and told her that two and possibly up to 6 ribs were broken.

The pilot-rated passenger said that he also obtained a briefing from Flight Service and also checked the weather at the launch site. The weather conditions were good for the flight. They took off and began tracking to the south; the pilot immediately began practicing her approaches and landings. He said she performed three approaches and full-stop landings on road intersections without any problems. He said she was dissatisfied with the previous simulated steep approach and landing, so they took off again. She began her fourth approach about 1,000 ft. agl. She performed a steep approach that was well within the balloon's performance capability. On landing however, she hit the raised upwind side of the road hard. The pilot was thrown forward hitting the bolster with her chest just under her armpit. The balloon hopped back into the air and came down on the opposite side of the road. The basket tipped and was dragged about 10 feet before it stopped. He said the pilot looked as if the wind had been knocked out of her. He asked her if she wanted to continue. She said she was done for the day.

The 75-year old female pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with lighter-than-air (LTA) balloon, limited to hot air balloons with airborne heater rating. She reported having flown a flight review on October 3, 2014, in a Lindstrand model 69X balloon. She also reported having flown a total of 570.45 hours.

The balloon, serial number 5229, was a Lindstrand Hot Air Balloons, Ltd., model 69A, manufactured in England, and registered in the United States. The balloon carried a 69,000 cubic-foot volume envelope and listed a total gross weight of 1,521.19 lbs. The system had a standard 45-inch by 52-inch Ascot basket constructed from single-weave wicker with a leather contoured top bolster and a plywood floor. Inside the basket were two upright 15-gallon stainless fuel tanks with quick shutoff valves mounted in opposite corners. The system was powered by a single JetStream burner with duel squeeze-trigger blast valves.

The balloon was owned by a private individual who was not the pilot. It had undergone an annual inspection on January 2, 2015, but had not been flown till the day of the accident flight. The pilot had agreed to fly the balloon for the owner to put some time on it. Prior to the accident flight, the balloon had a total envelope time of 238 hours.

At 0652 mdt, the weather conditions at the Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ,) 6.2 nautical miles east-southeast of AEG, was wind 010 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 20,000 feet msl, temperature 57 degrees F, dew point 45 degrees F, and altimeter 30.13 inches.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s failure to maintain a proper descent rate on approach, which resulted in a hard landing and the pilot sustaining a serious injury. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of recent experience flying a standard-shaped balloon.

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