Cat. 2 investigation report: simplified-format report, adapted to the circumstances of the occurrence and the investigation stakes.
Having checked the meteorological information at around 04:30, the pilot of the hot air balloon registered F-HOAX took off from Puimoisson at 05:50 for a sightseeing flight with six passengers on board. Three other hot air balloonsalso took off from the same field at the same time.
Pushed along by a north-northeasterly wind of 10 to 15 km/h, F-HOAX travelled in a southwesterly direction. The pilot followed the Riez valley at low height and low speed to take advantage of the mountain breeze at the bottom of the valley. After around one flight hour, F-HOAX was practically stationary over Riez. It was overtaken by the last hot air balloon in the group that started descending to land in a field located to the west of the village. The pilot of F-HOAX also started descent to land in the same field. The hot air balloon remained immobile for nearly ten minutes, ten metres above the ground over an area not suitable for landing. While the other hot air balloon landed, the F-HOAX pilot regained height to find some wind.
The hot air balloon then began to fly in a northeasterly direction and rapidly picked up speed to reach around 50 km/h. Observing that the balloon was travelling towards a dark and ominous-looking cloud mass located over Puimoisson, the pilot decided to abort the flight and look for a field to make an emergency landing.
He flew over several fields which had power lines traversing his flight path. He oriented the balloon to position one of the longer sides of the basket facing the direction of travel. After several minutes, he identified a field free of obstacles and suitable for landing. Prior to landing, he repeated the safety instructions, turned off the pilot lights and landed at high speed in a cultivated field. One of the long sides of the basket struck the ground hard a first time. The basket then bounced travelling a further 145 metres, rotated 180° and flew over a bush and an embankment. On its second contact with the ground, the basket bounced again before turning onto its side five metres further on. It was then dragged a distance of around thirty metres through one-metre high grass. The pilot pulled on the rapid deflation line, the basket came to a stop and the occupants evacuated the basket. Following retrieval by the support team and when loading the hot air balloon into the retrieve vehicle, a passenger complained of pains in her right foot and reported being unable to walk. She suffered fractures to her tibia, fibula, right ankle and ribs. A second passenger suffered a twisted ankle and another had a suspected cracked rib.
The flight to Riez had taken just over one hour. The return flight, up to the emergency landing, approximately two kilometres from the take-off point, took around ten minutes.
The pilots had consulted the meteorological data prior to travelling to the take-off site, but had not consulted the SIGMETs. They had a discussion at the site and made the decision to take off, planning to land before the arrival of the forecast adverse conditions. When the pilot did not manage to land, he regained height and the balloon was carried by the wind in a northeasterly direction. The wind force suddenly picked up creating strong turbulence. The pilot was unable to land immediately due to the speed of travel of the balloon and the presence of a number of obstacles on the ground. He was forced to make an emergency landing at high speed as soon as practicable. Concentrating on managing the emergency landing, the pilot reminded the passengers of some of the safety instructions just before the landing, omitting to tell them to position themselves with their backs facing the direction of impact. During the landing made in difficult conditions, a passenger was injured due to the violence of the impacts as the balloon bounced.