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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA14FA231
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, May 09, 2014 in Ruther Glen, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/06/2015
Aircraft: EAGLE C-7, registration: N3016Z
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Witnesses to the accident reported observing the balloon approaching the landing zone from the south where another balloon had just landed. A video obtained from one of the witnesses showed that, as the balloon descended and approached the landing site, the pilot engaged the burner; however, shortly after, the balloon struck power lines, which resulted in a spark. Subsequently, the basket and a section of the balloon’s envelope caught fire. The balloon then began an accelerated climb and drifted out of the camera’s view. The wreckage was found about 6 miles north of the power lines. Examination of the wreckage revealed no preexisting mechanical anomalies with the balloon.

Federal Aviation Administration guidance on balloon flying states that, if there is an obstacle between the balloon and the landing site, the pilot should either give the obstacle appropriate clearance and drop in from altitude; reject the landing and look for another landing site; or fly a low approach to the obstacle, fly over the obstacle allowing plenty of room, and then land. It is likely that the pilot identified the power lines late in the approach and ignited the burner to climb but that insufficient time remained to clear the power lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s inadequate approach and his failure to maintain clearance from power lines, which resulted in a subsequent fire.