According to the pilot’s accident report, he was making an approach to land in the hot air balloon in a furrowed farm field near La Mesa, Texas.
About 10 feet above the ground, he pulled the vent chute. The balloon hit the ground traveling about 15 mph, tipped over, and was dragged by the wind across furrows for 60 feet.
A gust of wind lifted the partially-filled balloon back into the air to about 20 feet.
He pulled the vent chute again and after traveling another 128 feet, the basket struck the ground hard. The wind dragged the balloon for another 30 feet, striking ditches on both sides of a road. It then traveled another 88 feet through grass.
The balloon was not damaged, however one passenger sustained serious injuries and a second passenger sustained minor injuries.
According to an FAA inspector, there were 18 balloons at the launch site, including the FAA inspector. The inspector had unpacked his balloon, but did not launch. No other pilots unpacked their balloons due to the high winds aloft. The accident pilot was the only one to take off.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s improper decision to launch the balloon in known high wind conditions, and his failure to fully vent the balloon upon landing, which resulted in the balloon landing hard several times, tipping over, being pushed along uneven ground, and a serious passenger injury.
This April 2019 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.