This is a courtesy translation by the BEA of the Final Report on the Safety Investigation published in March 2023. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in French is the work of reference.
Note:the following information is principally based on the pilot’s and flight manager’s statements. This information has not been independently validated by the BEA.
1. HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT
The pilot who participated in a balloon festival at Praz sur Arly, took off from this village with three passengers bound for the Sallanches valley. When they started the flight, the wind was lighter than forecast. Passing overhead Megève, the pilot noted that the wind had increased (estimated at 35 km/h) and that the bottom of the Sallanches valley was in fog.
The pilot aborted the flight and tried to land. Downdrafts pushed the balloon to the ground. The basket bounced and the envelope, pushed by the wind, caught in a tree. The basket came to rest in the tree at a height of approximately four to five metres. The emergency services evacuated the four occupants - all unharmed - from the basket.
2. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The pilot held a free balloon pilot licence and had totalled the required number of ascents during the past 24 months for the passenger carrying privileges.
The pilot indicated she had attended the briefing at 8:30 in the morning and the meeting carried out by the flight manager the previous evening.
She added that, during the previous day’s briefing, the forecast wind was from the south-south-west at approximately 10 km/h which would allow the balloon to reach the Sallanches valley to land. The flight manager had indicated that the wind could locally increase on the path when crossing a plateau .
The pilot added that during the morning briefing, as the forecast conditions had not changed, only the QNH was confirmed. The presence of fog in the Sallanches valley was not mentioned.
Furthermore, she stated that, before taking off, she had consulted the Météociel website which had confirmed a south-south-west wind at 10 km/h.
She stated that if she had been informed of the presence of fog in the Sallanches valley, she would probably not have taken off.
The flight manager indicated that during the morning briefing, he had mentioned that there could be low-level clouds in the bottom of the valley and at a low altitude. He added that the pilots who had taken off first had reported on the radio the presence of stratus clouds in the bottom of the valley over Sallanches and Passy.