Aviation safety investigations & reports

Fire prior to passenger disembarkation involving Kavanagh Balloons B400, VH-WNV, near Cessnock Airport, NSW, on 24 April 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 24 April 2016, the pilot of Kavanagh Balloons B400, registered VH-WNV (WNV) prepared to land at Rothbury near Cessnock New South Wales. On board were the pilot and 16 passengers.

After a gentle touchdown, the pilot advised the ground crew that the balloon needed to be moved back about 10 m from the tree line. The pilot checked that the neck of the balloon was not obstructed and then turned on the pilot light of one of the two burners.

Moments later the pilot noted that the wind had pushed part of the neck of the balloon back on itself, and there was black smoke emanating from this area. As the balloon envelope kept sliding on itself, the fire continued and some of the melted fabric began to drip onto the occupants of the basket.

The pilot quickly re-directed the ground crew from the task of pulling the top of the balloon down, to assisting the passengers to disembark and move away to a safe area. The pilot pulled the smart vent to rapidly release any air. Both the ground crew and the pilot (still in the basket) discharged fire extinguishers. Within a few minutes, the crew were able to spread the balloon envelope out and extinguish the fire.

During the emergency disembarkation, two of the passengers received minor injuries. The lower section of the balloon envelope was substantially damaged.

The Federal Aviation Administrations’ (FAA) comprehensive Balloon Flying Handbook FAA-H-8083-11A (2008) covers all aspects of balloon flying including aeronautical decision-making. This is a systematic approach to the mental process used by a pilot to determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. It builds on the foundation of conventional decision-making, but enhances the process to decrease the probability of pilot error. 


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin- Issue 52

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General details
Date: 24 April 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 07:25 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Cessnock Airport (Rothbury)    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Fire  
Release date: 28 September 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Kavanagh Balloons  
Aircraft model B-400  
Aircraft registration VH-WNV  
Serial number B400-482  
Type of operation Ballooning  
Sector Balloon  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Cessnock, NSW  
Destination Rothbury, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018