Balloon Snags Train, Three Hurt


The NTSB has issued a preliminary report on a collision between a hot air balloon and a freight train that seriously injured the balloon pilot and two passengers on June 5. The Cameron Z-90 balloon landed beside the tracks and its deflating envelope got caught on a car on a freight train near Burlington, Wisconsin. “The conductor on a Canadian National freight train reported that the train was traveling northbound when the balloon ran into the train,” the report said. “The conductor immediately put the train into emergency stop. Neither the conductor nor the engineer were injured.”

The pilot told the NTSB he was trying to land on a road just east of the tracks but overshot and ended up on a grass strip between the road and the train. “The balloon envelope caught on one of the cars, 15 cars back from the engine, and the balloon was pulled off the ground,” the report said. “The envelope then ripped away from the basket and ascended about 200 ft into the air.” The occupants fell out of the basked, which ended up inverted beside the tracks.

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  1. Since balloon flights are not mandatory, emergency ops, etc. and are entirely fun-filled optional excursions…. how is it that their landing sites are treated as “emergency” landings and somehow acceptable to authorities? If someone decided to go aloft with no particular plan for where to alight … and if the place they alighted was in My Yard and caused damage…. I’d be fairly unlikely to feel kindly about it.
    So how is it that these things are allowed to launch with no more control over where they bump back down?
    Asking for a friend…

    • “Allowed to launch…..” Would you propose that an FAA permission be required for EVERY TAKEOFF OF ANY OTHER AIRCRAFT? How about parachutists–THEY may not land on an airport, should THEY have to get FAA permission? Then there are GLIDERS–they often “land out” on fields rather than airports.

      As someone that does ALL of the above (in addition to being an FBO operator and a Corporate Pilot on a King Air–I’ve never seen the time it has been a problem–in 59 years and over 28,000 hours as a pilot.

      I’ve never understood people’s desire for “more government control”–we fought a war over overzealous government control 246 years ago–not advocating we do that again, just tell the government to “chill” and back off over-regulation.