Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

March 27, 2008 11:10 ET

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada Issues Interim Safety Recommendations Concerning Commercial Hot Air Balloon Operations

GATINEAU, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - March 27, 2008) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released two Interim Aviation Safety Recommendations following the accident (A07C0151) that occurred northeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on August 11, 2007 involving a FireFly 12B hot air balloon in a commercial operation.

In its Aviation Safety Recommendation documents forwarded to the Minister of Transport, the TSB notes that balloons are considered aircraft under the Aeronautics Act. However, while balloons can carry up to 12 fare-paying passengers, they are not regulated at a level comparable to that of other commercial aircraft operators. The TSB recommends that:

The Department of Transport ensure that passenger-carrying commercial balloon operations provide a level of safety equivalent to that established for other aircraft of equal passenger-carrying capacity.

The TSB also draws attention to a safety deficiency involving the fuel delivery system for hot air balloons. The flight manual for the accident balloon recommends that fuel be shut off during hard landings and during certain emergency situations. The TSB notes that the FireFly 12B design does not incorporate a single-lever or emergency fuel shut-off, nor is it required. Therefore, the TSB also recommends that:

The Department of Transport ensure that balloons carrying fare-paying passengers have an emergency fuel shut-off.

On August 11, 2007, at about 0900 central daylight time, a FireFly 12B hot air balloon, C-FNVM, attempted a landing in a field adjacent to Birds Hill Provincial Park near the northern outskirts of Winnipeg. One pilot and 11 passengers were on board for a local sightseeing flight of about one hour's duration, originating in the southeast of Winnipeg. The flight was expected to terminate in an area to the northeast of Winnipeg.

The flight was extended beyond Winnipeg as the pilot searched for a suitable landing area. The winds in the selected landing area were much stronger than anticipated. The balloon touched down and skipped several times. The basket was dragged on its side for about 700 feet and at one point tipped far enough for the burners to strike the ground. When the balloon stopped, the pilot ordered the passengers to evacuate the basket. A propane fuel leak occurred and an intense uncontrolled fire ensued before the evacuation was completed. The pilot and two passengers suffered serious injuries in the intense fire. Four other passengers suffered minor injuries, some with burns. Two of the propane tanks and a fire extinguisher canister exploded, and the basket of the balloon was destroyed by the fire.

The balloon was operated by Sundance Balloons International under Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) 5812-10-36 issued by Transport Canada.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

This news release and photographs for this occurrence can be found on the TSB website at www.tsb.gc.ca.

Contact Information

  • Transportation Safety Board of Canada
    John Cottreau
    Senior Media Relations Advisor
    819-994-8053
    613-292-4146 (cell)
    or
    Transportation Safety Board of Canada
    Julie Leroux
    Media Relations Advisor
    819-994-8067
    613-290-9875 (cell)