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N3635U accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.045000°N, 106.615278°W
Nearest city Albuquerque, NM
35.084491°N, 106.651137°W
3.4 miles away
Tail number N3635U
Accident date 08 Oct 2005
Aircraft type Aerostar S57-A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 8, 2005, approximately 0830 mountain daylight time, an Aerostar S57-A, N3635U, operated and piloted by a private pilot, was substantially damaged when it struck trees and impacted terrain north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot and two passengers sustained no injuries. The flight originated approximately 0800 from the Balloon Festival launching field in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to the report submitted by the pilot, he stated that he attended a pilot briefing at 0615 at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. He chose two "experienced crewmembers" to fly with him and they launched in the second wave. The pilot said he briefed the crew on ascent, level flight, descent, and landing. They departed, climbed to 800 feet above ground level (agl), and traveled northwest at 5 knots. The pilot stated, "Once over the Rio Grande River, I descended to the river and was traveling north up the river at less than 5 knots. I briefed the crew and made a landing on a sand bar approximately 100-200 feet south of the south bend in the river. After briefing the crew on a splash and dash, I took off again, and climbed up to approximately 20 feet agl and cleared a tree at the edge of the water, allowing the balloon to cool and descend towards the river. The crown line and vent line caught a tree branch and I was continuing to burn while the vent line was being held open." A crew from the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) arrived within 1-2 minutes and "they were able to free the crown line first but the vent line was being held open and once the crown line was freed, the balloon continued to vent and the basket descended into the water. The balloon's throat collapsed and the envelope started to deflate. I evacuated the crewmembers to the APD personnel while the envelope and basket were drawn into the water. The current was too swift to recover the balloon system despite the assistance of 2 APD personnel and 5 bystanders."

According to the FAA inspector who interviewed the pilot, the balloon had been aloft approximately 20 minutes when the pilot decided to land on a sand bar in the middle of the Rio Grande River. He observed other balloonists performing "splash and dash" (touching down in the water and lifting off again). The pilot decided to do the same. The balloon lifted off and went through 10-foot trees along the river bank that ripped the envelope. According to the pilot, "The basket, burners, tanks, and approximately 40[percent] of the envelope was recovered from the river."

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's improper in flight planning decision to takeoff and land (splash and dash) in close proximity to trees. Contributing factors are the trees and the water.

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