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N2200Z accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 37.781389°N, 80.456667°W
Nearest city Lewisburg, WV
37.801788°N, 80.445630°W
1.5 miles away
Tail number N2200Z
Accident date 25 Sep 2004
Aircraft type Firefly Galaxy 9
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 25, 2004, at 1830 eastern daylight time, a Firefly Galaxy 9 balloon, N2200Z, received minor damage when it impacted trees near Lewisburg, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot received fatal injuries and the six passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the passengers, they had landed in a field, and all of the occupants had exited the balloon, when a small airplane flew "very low" over the top of the balloon. At the same time, the balloon began to ascend, with the pilot hanging onto the outside of the basket. One of the passengers asked the pilot "if he was ok," to which he replied, "yes, I know a trick." The pilot proceeded to wrap a rope around his leg, and the balloon continued to ascend. As it reached an altitude of about 80 feet, the pilot fell from the outside of the basket.

According to the pilot of the passing airplane, he was on a "five-mile final," and had been cleared to land at the Lewisburg Greenbrier Airport, when he noticed a hot air balloon, on the ground, 1/2-mile ahead of him, and to his right. The pilot requested a 360-degree turn from the control tower, and then performed a descending right turn, passing over some small trees on the southeast side of the balloon.

The pilot then turned back to the airport, about 1/2 mile northeast of the balloon, at an altitude of 3,100 feet MSL. The balloon then began to rise, and the pilot observed a man running toward the balloon. The balloon ascended to approximately 100 to 120 feet AGL with the man hanging under the basket. It then began to drift southwest over several tall trees. At that point, the man fell from the balloon.

Examination of the balloon by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed the balloon sustained minor damage when it impacted trees.

The elevation at the Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB), Lewisburg, West Virginia, was 2,302 feet MSL.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by personnel of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Charleston, West Virginia, on September 27, 2004.

Toxicological testing was conducted on the pilot at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to attempt to board the balloon while it was ascending.

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