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N72KX accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.265833°N, 106.666111°W
Nearest city Rio Rancho, NM
35.233375°N, 106.664472°W
2.2 miles away
Tail number N72KX
Accident date 09 Oct 2007
Aircraft type Sproul 72K-TET
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On October 9, 2007, approximately 0750 mountain daylight time, a Sproul 72K-TET, N72KX, registered to and operated by the pilot, sustained minor damage when it struck a cinderblock wall while landing at Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. One passenger was seriously injured, and the commercial pilot and another passenger escaped injury. The local flight originated in Albuquerque, New Mexico, approximately 0615.

The hot air free balloon was participating in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. According to the pilot's accident report, he received a preflight FAA weather briefing. Winds were forecast to be between 3 mph and 5 mph through 1000. He took off approximately 0615 as part of the "Dawn Patrol." Once airborne, the pilot realized the winds were "quite variable" at different altitudes. The balloon was at 2,000 feet agl (above ground level) and traveling about 8 mph. By observing other balloons and talking to other pilots via radio, he discovered the winds closer to the ground were "quite fast and going in the opposite direction." He said that one pilot who had landed had reported his balloon was going about 25 mph at 500 feet agl, then it slowed to about 8 mph when it got close to the ground.

The accident pilot began his descent and encountered 25 mph winds. As he got closer to the ground, the balloon slowed "but only to about 15 to 16 mph." He attempted to land on the north side of a new housing development, but the wind carried the balloon to the south side of the development. There were brick retaining walls separating the different plots of land awaiting new house construction. The basket struck a street curb, scraped the top of a brick wall perpendicular to the balloon's flight path, and then impacted a second wall. The basket dragged along the wall, and then stopped, and the envelope draped over the other side of the wall. Upon impact with the second wall, a passenger was thrown against the fuel tank, dislocating her hip and fracturing her pelvis.

In his accident report, the pilot said the winds were from 170 degrees at 16 knots, gusting to 25 knots. "In other parts of the valley, only a few miles away," he wrote in his report, "the winds were much less." In post-accident discussions with other pilots who had been involved in accidents and incidents that morning, the consensus was the winds had developed "faster than expected." Other pilots reported being pushed into the ground at low altitudes. They referred to these phenomena as a "false heavy."

The pilot gave a similar report to the New Mexico State Police.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadequate inflight planning/judgment, and his selection of unsuitable terrain on which to make a landing. Contributing factors in this accident were the unfavorable wind, and the pilot misjudging his airspeed.

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