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N29922 accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.038889°N, 106.608333°W
Nearest city Albuquerque, NM
35.084491°N, 106.651137°W
4.0 miles away
Tail number N29922
Accident date 07 Oct 2017
Aircraft type Cameron N-105
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 7, 2017, about 0900 mountain daylight time, a Cameron N-105 balloon, N29922, landed hard in a field located on the Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB), Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pilot and two passengers were not injured, and one passenger received a serious injury. The balloon was not damaged. The balloon was owned and operated by HCP Aviation under the provisions of the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The balloon departed the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque about 0800 on a local flight.

The pilot reported it was the fourth time that he participated in the Albuquerque Balloon Festival as a pilot-in-command. He stated that about 500 balloons departed from the Balloon Fiesta Park that morning, and he departed in one of the later scheduled groups.

He stated that he departed in a southeast direction. After about 30 to 40 minutes, the wind speed started to increase to 10 to 15 knots, and he couldn't change directions by changing his altitude. The balloon was headed for the Kirtland AFB, which is a prohibited zone for the Balloon Festival. He stated that he was concerned about how much propane remained and the airspace constraints. He decided it was best to get the balloon on the ground at the nearest available landing site. Due to the high winds at the surface, which he estimated were about 20 knots, he flew a steep approach to get the basket firmly on the ground. He stated that a steep approach made for a harder impact due to vertical velocity, but it was necessary because he did not want the basket dragged by the wind.

He stated that the landing site was bordered by power lines and trees on the north and residential homes 100 yards to the south. He briefed the passengers to bend their knees and brace for impact. Upon ground contact, the balloon basket made firm ground contact and tipped over. The wind dragged the balloon for about 30 ft before it came to rest. One passenger suffered a broken foot during the landing. The accident site was located about 8 nautical miles from the Balloon Fiesta Park on a 165° bearing.

He stated that the winds were predicted to be light, and the high winds he encountered were unexpected. He reported that balloons that landed about 1 mile west or more from the accident site encountered much lighter winds and experienced better landings. Another balloon that was next to his landed in the same area at the Kirtland AFB as he did. They also had a hard landing due to the winds but did not experience any injuries.

He stated that had he been more familiar with the local weather patterns that he might have made different decisions in the early part of the flight. He thought that the area where he landed might have been catching winds that were being affected by the nearby mountains. Had he known that, he might have tried to keep the balloon further to the west where it might not have been affected as much by the local conditions.

At 0852, the surface weather observation at ABQ was wind 340° at 8 knots; sky clear; 10 miles visibility; temperature 12° C; dew point -5° C; and altimeter 30.16 inches of mercury.

NTSB Probable Cause

The steep approach and hard landing after the balloon encountered unexpected high wind conditions, which resulted in a serious injury to a passenger.  

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