Aviation occurrence briefs

Collision with terrain involving a Kavanagh Balloons B-425, 6 km south-south-west of Maitland Airport, NSW, on 31 October 2020

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 31 October 2020, at 0605 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the pilot of a Kavanagh Balloons B425-581 balloon was preparing for launch near Maitland, New South Wales, with 20 passengers on board. The balloon was to operate in company with another seven passenger-carrying charter balloons and was the second to launch.

The pilot inadvertently released the launch restraint with sufficient heat being applied to the envelope only to become airborne (due to false lift) but not to climb. The balloon then travelled approximately 100 m downwind at 50 ft above the ground before coming into contact with the trees (Figure 1). This resulted in damage to seventeen panels of the balloon envelope. The pilot and passengers were uninjured.

Figure 1: Approximate balloon track

Figure 1: Approximate balloon track.
Source: Operator, annotated by ATSB

Source: Operator, annotated by ATSB

Safety message

The Australian Ballooning Federation’s Pilot Training Manual Part 5 Aerostatics and Airmanship describes the effects of false lift and the importance of ensuring the flight path is clear of obstacles during launch.

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.

General details
Date: 05 November 2020   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0605 EDT    
Location   (show map): 6 km south-south-west of Maitland    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 30 November 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Kavanagh Balloons  
Aircraft model B-425  
Type of operation Ballooning  
Sector Balloon  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Bishops Bridge, New South Wales  
Destination Sweetwater, New South Wales  
Last update 30 November 2020