Multiple factors led to fatal air balloon accident of Pilot Pete in Ombersley - The Droitwich Standard

Multiple factors led to fatal air balloon accident of Pilot Pete in Ombersley

Droitwich Editorial 30th May, 2024   0

AN INVESTIGATION into the death of an air balloon pilot in Ombersley last year has found several factors responsible for the accident.

The pilot, 25-year-old Peter Gregory of the Cotswolds, died in the early hours of the morning on June 25, 2023 after his hot air balloon failed and fell to the ground off Holt Fleet Road, near the A449 in Ombersley during a competition.

A report on the incident published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) determined the accident occurred whilst the balloon was climbing rapidly away from a target which pilots were supposed to drop a market as close as possible to.

The rapid ascension of Peter’s hot air balloon ‘likely’ caused the internal parachute to stall and the balloon envelope to collapse.

A hot air balloons parachute is a vent device within the roof of the balloon designed to enable the pilot to control the release of hot air, altering the aircraft’s rate of descent or ascent.

The balloons design and the weather conditions are also likely to have contributed to the accident. The Met Office forecasted wind strengths of 35 knots at 2,000 ft on June 25. Some competitors chose not to

fly based on the forecast.

A flight tracker recovered from Peter’s aircraft logged a maximum altitude of 2,273 feet. It also recorded the balloon travelling at a maximum speed of about 19 metres per second (42 mph) on its descent towards the ground.

A search of the crash site found Peter’s balloon hanging from a tree after being torn up by branches. The basket and burners were found turned on their side. There was no evidence of fault or structural failure prior to the crash.

Sections of the balloon were burned by flames and heat from the burners. The wicker basket, frame structure and base were damaged due to the collision. The aircraft’s parachute material was in good condition with no visible signs of damage or wear. The burners were functional and had only been damaged during the collision.

Peter was known to be a ‘very safe flyer’ with 569 hours of balloon flying experience including 460 hours in command. He had flown 91 hours in competition flights and held a commercial fixed wing licence with approximately 1,000 hours of experience, including with an airline.

The pilot’s post-mortem report stated death was caused by ‘multiple injuries caused by a fall from a height’. The toxicological analysis found no alcohol or drugs.

The AAIB subsequently made safety recommendations to the competition organisers – British Ballooning and Airship Club (BBAC) – and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

According to the investigation, parachute stalls are more common than was previously understood. The BBAC and AAIB were aware of similar events which were not formally reported.

Visit and search ‘Ombersley’ to read the full report.

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