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On 7 February 2016, the pilot of a Kavanagh G-450 balloon, registered VH-RUW, conducted a 30-minute scenic flight from Mareeba, Queensland with 18 passengers on board.

Shortly before 0627 Eastern Standard Time, the balloon approached the target landing area. The pilot referred to his iPad, which showed the location of the balloon and a set of powerlines strung across the paddock.

The pilot sighted two power poles either side of the landing area, but was unable to see the wires. The pilot estimated where the wires would be based on the crossbars on the poles, and assessed that the balloon had sufficient height to pass over the powerlines. The pilot then sighted the powerlines, about half a metre ahead of and below the basket. The pilot applied all four burners to try to climb and avoid the powerlines, but the left side of the basket contacted one wire, breaking it.

Due to the amount of heat in the balloon, the balloon was climbing. The pilot then conducted a normal controlled descent and landing into a paddock about 500 m beyond the original planned landing site. The balloon landed without further incident and no one was injured. The wicker basket sustained scorching and a stainless steel cable fixed to the underside of the basket sustained arc damage.

The ATSB research report, Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agriculture hazard, explains a number of strategies to assist pilots manage the risk of wirestrikes.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 48

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General details
Date: 07 February 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 06:40 EST  
Location   (show map):near Mareeba Aerodrome (Byrnes Rd) Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Wirestrike 
Release date: 27 May 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Kavanagh Balloons 
Aircraft model: G-450 
Aircraft registration: VH-RUW 
Serial number: G450-401 
Type of operation: Ballooning 
Sector: Balloon 
Damage to aircraft: Minor 
Destination:Mareeba, Qld
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Last update 14 November 2018