Report published after passenger falls out of hot air balloon near Royston

A balloon similar to the one involved in the incident. File photo. Picture: Lesley Dean.

A balloon similar to the one involved in the incident. File photo. Picture: Lesley Dean. - Credit: Archant

An investigation into a hot air balloon crash near Royston – which saw one passenger thrown from the basket – has concluded with question marks over what caused the incident.

The Air Accident Investigation report into the crash was released yesterday, and said that the passenger was severely injured when they were ejected from Virgin Balloon Flights G-VBFO – which came down in a field at Hyde Hill Farm on October 9 last year.

The report found that the basket landed firmly before bouncing twice and being dragged across the ground, coming to rest 60m from the initial impact point, with the passenger being ejected.

The report said: “During the first impact, a passenger was ejected from the rear right compartment and travelled forward over the basket, striking one of the other passengers.

“The pilot managed to reach out and hold onto the passenger before losing his grip when the balloon bounced a second time, at which point the passenger fell in front of the basket and it passed over him.

“The passenger recalled that he was in the correct landing position prior to landing and holding on to the best of his ability.”

The hour-long flight – which started at Old Warden in Bedfordshire – carried 12 passengers and was uneventful until the incident. The pilot, a 44-year-old with more than 1,400 hours of flying experience, aborted a landing on a sports field due to its small size.

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The report by the government’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch did not pinpoint the exact reason why the passenger was ejected but concluded: “It is likely that the passenger either let go prior to the landing or was not able to hold on tightly enough to keep himself in the landing position.

“The compartment he fell from only had three occupants. This may have made it easier for him to fall out.

“The briefings given did not convey to the passengers the potential dynamic nature of a balloon landing. This may have contributed to the accident.

“The operator and the Civil Aviation Authority have indicated they propose to take action intended to ensure safety briefings are delivered to a consistent high standard.”

When being interviewed for the investigation, only three passengers recall the pilot’s pre-flight briefing while a further two recalled struggling to hear it.

The report found that: “All passengers practiced the landing position and the ground crew checked everyone was holding on and in the correct position.”

To read the report in full go to