Aviation occurrence briefs

Heat damage involving a Kavanagh Balloons E-240, Yarra Glen, Victoria, on 8 April 2019

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 8 April 2019 at 0725 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot of a Kavanagh E-240 balloon with eight passengers on board was conducting a rapid descent from 2,500 ft to 100 ft at Yarra Glen, Victoria.

At approximately 600 ft, the balloon encountered windshear resulting in the distortion of the envelope. The pilot was unaware the envelope had caved-in due to the windshear and subsequently did not angle the burner to compensate. When he began to arrest the rate of descent by applying heat, the burner flame contacted the balloon fabric close to the mouth of the envelope, resulting in substantial burn damage to the Nomex[1] and ripstop nylon.[2] The balloon landed safely and no passengers were injured.

Safety message

This accident highlights the importance of maintaining situational awareness of the environment the balloon is operating in and the state of the balloon to better assess and manage risk. Looking up before applying heat will ensure that the burner is angled away from the envelope in the event of windshear.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Nomex: the bottom of the balloon is normally made from ‘Nomex’ which is a heavy weight flame retardant fabric.
  2. Ripstop nylon: hot air balloons are generally made out of a specialised ripstop nylon fabric. The fabric weave is coated to give it better UV protection, make it somewhat flame retardant and to reduce the amount of air that will leak through the fabric weave.
General details
Date: 08 April 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0725 EST    
Location   (show map): Yarra Glen    
State: Victoria    
Release Date: 24 June 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Kavanagh Balloons  
Aircraft model E-240  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Balloon  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Destination Yarra Glen, Victoria  
Last update 31 July 2019