On 26 September 2014 at about 0450 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot of a Kavanagh Balloon, registered VH-CNX, conducted pre-flight preparations for a charter flight with 22 passengers. Due to the forecast winds, the pilot elected to depart from Beaudesert, with a planned landing site in Cedar Grove, Queensland.

The pilot conducted a safety briefing including demonstration of the landing position. The passengers then assumed their landing positions and the pilot was satisfied they understood the correct position to adopt. After completing the pre-flight checks, the balloon lifted off at about 0550. After about a 20-minute flight, the pilot commenced the descent to the landing site.

During the approach, the pilot observed a light ground fog and was heading directly into the sun, making the landing site difficult to see. The pilot attempted to obtain an accurate rate of descent from the altimeter, but it was reading erratically. The pilot instructed the passengers to adopt the landing position, but not all of them complied. He repeated his instructions to the passengers, the altimeter continued to read erratically and facing directly into the sun made visual assessment of the approach difficult.

The balloon landed hard and bounced once before landing about 3 m further along the ground. Two passengers sustained serious injuries, and seven had minor injuries. The balloon was undamaged.

In this incident, the combination of moderate wind speed, the position of the sun, equipment issues and non-compliance to instructions by passengers, contributed to increase the pilot workload at a critical phase of flight.


Aviaiton Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 37