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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 133281
Last updated: 18 March 2019
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Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Cameron CAN-56
Registration: N20367
C/n / msn: 5385
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:West Chicago, IL -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
Investigating agency: NTSB


On June 25, 1994, at 0715 central daylight time, a Cameron Balloons CAN-56 free balloon, N20367, owned and operated by Mr. David L. James of Larwill, Indiana, contacted powerlines during approach to an open field in West Chicago, Illinois. The balloon caught fire and was destroyed. The commercial certificated free balloon pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 as part of the Geneva, Illinois, Swedish Day Balloon Festival. The flight departed from an open field in Geneva, Illinois, at 0602 along with 20 other free balloons.

The event was a "Hare and Hound" race, and the lead balloon had dropped a target at a golf course, 1/2 mile south of the Dupage Airport. The accident balloon passed north of this site, and the pilot remarked to his passengers that "we aren't in the competition." They then continued beyond the airport after crossing one of the runways south of the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), and began to look for a landing site.

After passing Dupage Airport, the pilot disconnected the main fuel line to one burner from the #1 tank (right front position) and reconnected it to the #3 tank (right aft position). The pilot stated he made this tank change when the tank gauge indicated 10% fuel. He stated that he left reserve fuel in the tank to ensure he would have some available if he needed it later. After this tank switch, all occupants described 1 more burn of the blast valves to initiate an ascent. No line changes were made to the left burner or #2 tank (aft left position).

According to the festival coordinator, once a tank gets down to 40% fuel level, longer burns are required to produce an equivalent amount of heating compared to short burns at higher fuel levels. He stated that this is due to reduced fuel pressure within the tanks.

A low pass was made in a residential area, and the pilot remarked to the passengers that he would land there if alone, but not with passengers. Another ascent was described, and then the target landing field was sighted. The balloon ground crew was in the field, and had established communications with the pilot on a handheld radio.

A low pass was made over another crop field, the pilot stated he did not want to land there due to crop damage and recovery difficulty. Another burn was initiated to clear trees beyond this field, which bordered the target landing field where his ground crew was now stationed. The pilot described clearing the trees by 30 or 40 feet. None of the occupants described any further burning of the blast valve after the ascent to clear these trees. The pilot and 1 passenger stated they had seen the power poles near the landing field earlier. The pilot described the balloon beginniung to descend as they crossed the trees. As the road was crossed the balloon contacted the powerlines.

All three occupants described the flight as uneventful until contact was made with the powerlines. The passengers stated that they felt electricity pass through their bodies and then jumped or fell from the gondola. One passenger stated he consciously climbed out of the gondola, and when he jumped, his watch got stuck on the basket. He hung on the outside until his watch broke, then fell to the ground. He described the fire as coming up from below the basket and burning his legs. Both passengers sustained spinal and leg injuries and the pilot-in-command sustained head and arm injuries.

The balloon reascended and travelled downwind another 5 miles, coming to rest in trees alongside a highway. The basket was consumed by fire, two of the three fuel tanks exploded and detached from the balloon. The third fuel tank was recovered intact along with the balloon envelope.


The pilot was a commercially certificated free balloon pilot with no other aeronautical ratings. He had been a crewmember on balloons since the mid


NTSB id 20001206X01487

Revision history:

21-Dec-2016 19:26 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]

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