Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary WPR22LA152

Safford, AZ, USA

Aircraft #1




The pilot stated that shortly after takeoff as they climbed to a higher altitude, she noticed the burners sounded different and they didn’t seem to produce as much power as they usually did, so she elected to perform an emergency landing. During the descent, the balloon descended below power lines, and the pilot applied maximum available power to avoid a collision with the power lines. The pilot then decreased the power to immediately land in a nearby parking lot. The balloon touched down, bounced and the envelope contacted power lines that bordered the fence enclosed parking lot. Just beyond the parking lot where the pilot landed was open uninhabited land. Postaccident examination of the accident balloon’s fuel supply system, ignition, burner, gages, and operational checks revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The pilot was able to successfully add power to climb over the power lines as she approached her selected landing site, indicating that she still possessed control over the balloon’s descent rate. Despite still having climb capabilities, she elected to continue the approach to the confined area, which resulted in a collision with power lines. Review of the landing area indicated that there were miles of unobstructed hazard-free landing sites that would have been more suitable for the landing.

Factual Information

On April 10, 2022, about 0703 mountain standard time, an Adams Balloons LLC A55S, N866RA, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident in Safford, Arizona. The commercial pilot was not injured, and the two passengers sustained minor injuries. The balloon was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The pilot reported that during a climb to the north, the sound and power produced by the burners was abnormal. After she observed the burners produce low pressure, she descended the balloon, and the wind turned the balloon to the south-southeast. During the descent, she attempted to troubleshoot the low-pressure anomaly by alternating propane tanks and elected to use the left rear and forward right propane tanks, which seemed to provide better burner pressure. The pilot decided to land as soon as possible and was able to maintain a level flight path about 1,100 ft above ground level, but the burner pressure seemed to decrease. During the approach to her desired landing site, the pilot spotted power lines that intersected the balloon’s approach path, so she applied full burn to clear the power lines. After the balloon ascended over the wires, the pilot ripped open as many panels as she could so the balloon would descend rapidly toward the parking lot that bordered the power lines. She recalled that during the descent over the east perimeter fence of the parking lot, the speed of the balloon was about 8-mph, and she missed the intended landing site. The basket impacted the ground, and the envelope continued until it collided with a set of the power lines near the west perimeter fence. While on the ground, she ensured that the propane fuel tanks, and the pilot lights were off. The pilot and passengers remained in the basket until first responders arrived. Postaccident examination of the balloon’s fuel supply system, ignition, burner, gages, and operational checks revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. According to the Federal Aviation Administration Balloon Flying Handbook, the heaters typically have an output of approximately 20 million British thermal units (BTU) in use. There is a power loss associated with altitude, generally considered to be four percent per thousand feet of altitude. This is particularly important when dealing with higher density altitudes. The nearest meteorological aerodrome reporting (METAR) facility was 7 miles east of the accident site. The METAR indicated that about the time of the accident, the temperature was 57° F, the altimeter setting was 29.82 inHg, and the elevation of the accident site was 2,981 ft. About the time of the accident, the density altitude was 3,656 ft and the pressure altitude was 3,075 ft. The balloon climbed to 4,200 ft above mean sea level before the emergency landing site was selected by the pilot. The emergency landing site was a right triangular shaped area with a nearly 300 ft length and about a 300 ft base. The landing area was a confined parking lot, completely fenced around the perimeter. The power line wires struck by the balloon, outlined the eastern perimeter of the parking lot. Just beyond the powerline wires, were miles of uninhabited landing sites free of obstacles with no power line wires.

Probable Cause and Findings

The pilot’s decision to continue the balloon’s fast approach to an unsuitable confined landing site, which resulted in a collision with powerline wires.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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