Sat, Dec. 07

Feds release early balloon report

COTTONWOOD -- The preliminary official report has been released by the National Transportation Safety Board on the hard landing of a torn hot air balloon, ensnared with an ultralight motorized paraglider at Cottonwood's Airfest 2010 Oct. 16.

According to the report, the balloon pilot told investigators that he was at 5,500-feet elevation when he saw the paraglider pilot manuever close to the balloon envelope.

The balloon pilot called out to the paraglider pilot, 65-year-old Kenneth Ritchie of Cornville, to move away from the balloon, but the motorized glider suddenly became entangled in the balloon guy lines.

As the two vehicles fell to the earth, the balloon pilot, Eric Wadleigh, 53, attempted to slow the rate of descent.

The basket of the balloon crashed first into the perimeter fence of the Unisource Energy Company before the aircraft spilled into the parking lot.

After the crash, Ritchie told the balloon pilot that he was taking photographs when the collision occurred.

The Federal report is not complete and is likely to take several months, but air right of way rules, clearly state that a balloon has the right of way over other classifications of aircraft and that no person may operate an ultra-light in a manner that causes a collision with another aircraft.

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