The balloon pilot reported that, halfway through the flight, he determined that the wind aloft was higher than anticipated and that the original planned landing destination was no longer suitable.
While the Ultramagic SA N210 balloon was between 3,000 and 4,000 feet mean sea level, he started looking for another landing area and noted that the surface wind had increased and changed direction since the launch. The wind aloft about this time was reported to be 26 knots.
The pilot stated that, during the descent to land, the balloon was traveling “about 15 mph.”
During the subsequent landing in an open field near Peoria, Arizona, the gondola hit the ground hard twice, followed by two small hops, and then came to a stop. One of the passengers sustained two broken ankles during the two hard landings.
Probable cause: The pilot’s selection of unsuitable terrain for landing after noting a higher-than-anticipated wind speed and the balloon’s high descent rate, which resulted in a hard landing.
NTSB Identification: GAA15LA015
This March 2015 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.