Cat. 3 investigation report: report concerning an occurrence with limited consequences, based on one or more statements not independently validated by the BEA.
This is a courtesy translation by the BEA of the Final Report on the Safety Investigation published in December 2020. 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 statements made by the pilot. This information has not been independently validated by the BEA
1 - HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT
The pilot, accompanied by three passengers, took off at about 20:30 from a private field in the municipality of Glos-la-Ferrière for a flight around the L'Aigle area. After about 45 minutes of flight, he reminded the passengers of the landing instructions and began his descent for a landing on a stubble field located in the municipality of Vitrai-sous-L'Aigle.
As the balloon approached the ground, the pilot shut down the two pilot lights and continuously activated the rapid deflation system. The short side of the basket came into contact with the ground first and, after a bounce, the basket was dragged over the ground for about thirty meters before coming to a halt.
During this phase, one of the passengers, aged 66, violently hit a gas cylinder, injuring his hip.
2 - ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
2.1 Pilot information
The 61-year-old pilot held a valid balloon pilot license (gas and hot air) along with "night ascent" and "instructor" ratings.
His total balloon experience amounted to nearly 4,600 flight hours. His experience on type was
83 hours and 45 minutes on the day of the occurrence, of which 11 hours and 45 minutes in the previous month.
2.2 Weather information
The pilot indicated that he consulted the weather forecast on a website and carried out a balloon release before the flight. The information obtained through these means indicated a clear sky without clouds or turbulence and a north-northwest wind of about 20 km/h. He added that during the landing, he noticed a wind of 25 km/h near the ground.
Météo-France's measurements and estimations for the Vitrai-sous-L'Aigle area at the time of the accident indicated visibility greater than 10 km, a prevailing northerly mean wind of 8 to 10 kt with fairly stable gusts between 15 and 20 kt. No indication of wind shear was observed.
3 - SAFETY LESSONS LEARNED
The pilot believed that the passenger's injury was at least partly due to the basket landing on its short side. He indicated that this resulted in prolonged dragging and meant that the passenger was unable to avoid contact with the gas cylinder.
He added that turning vents such as those found on some types of balloons might have perhaps permitted him to orient the basket onto its long side and mitigate the accident. He also believed that a compartmentalized basket or polyurethane foam protection on the upper edge of the cylinders could have mitigated the consequences of the basket tipping over.
 Non-compartmentalized rectangular basket with a maximum capacity of 6 persons according to the flight manual.