Photo of the hot air balloon | Photo supplied
Photo of the hot air balloon | Photo supplied
Kavanagh Balloons E-260, ZK-FBK, Hard landing and ejection of occupants, Wakatipu Basin, near Arrowtown, 9 July 2021
Occurrence Date
Report Publication Date
What happened
On Friday 9 July 2021, Kavanagh Balloons E-260 ZK-FBK was being flown on a scenic flight around the Wakatipu Basin. On board were the pilot and 10 passengers. After two attempted landings, the balloon landed fast and hard in a paddock.

The pilot and two of the passengers were ejected during the landing and sustained serious injuries. The balloon bounced and slid a further 150 metres before coming to rest. The eight passengers who stayed in the balloon basket were either not injured or sustained minor injuries. The balloon sustained minor damage.

Why it happened
The pilot decided not to land during the first two approaches because they had safety concerns. As the balloon continued towards Kawarau Gorge the wind speed continued to increase. In the final few seconds of flight, as the balloon neared the ground, the wind speed decreased and the balloon basket hit the lip of a gully.

The two passengers who were ejected were not prepared for the landing. They were not in the correct crouched landing position and were not holding on to the rope handles as required.

The pilot was standing up and manipulating the balloon’s control ropes when the basket struck the lip of the gully. The pilot, like the two ejected passengers, was therefore vulnerable to being thrown from the basket. The pilot was also not wearing the available restraint harness fitted to the pilot’s compartment.

What we can learn
Safety briefings need to ensure that passengers are prepared to handle unusual or emergency situations.

Pilots should include an appropriate margin of safety when selecting their landing points, and follow checklists to ensure safety-critical items are not missed.

A pilot should wear a restraint harness during critical phases of flight to reduce the risk of their being ejected from the basket. If the pilot is ejected from the basket, it is virtually certain that an accident will occur, potentially resulting in injury to the passengers. The pilot would have no control of the balloon and the passengers would be left unattended.

Who may benefit
All pilots, operators and passengers may benefit from the findings and lessons in this report.