Ryanair pilot dubbed 'Pilot Pete', 25, was killed in tragic hot air balloon explosion after he tried to 'gain a competitive edge' during contest, investigation reveals

Peter Gregory, 25, died when his balloon plummeted to the ground in June 2023 Incident took place during competition near Ombersley, Worcestershire 

A Ryanair pilot was killed in a hot air balloon explosion after he tried to 'gain a competitive edge' during a contest, an investigation has found.

Peter Gregory, 25, died when his balloon plummeted to the ground near the village of Ombersley, Worcestershire, during a competition on June 25 last year.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found the crash happened when the balloon climbed rapidly before its envelope - the outer layer - collapsed as a parachute inside it stalled.

Investigators said the climb, the balloon's design and the weather conditions all likely contributed to the crash.

The accident occurred while the balloon was climbing away from a target on which Mr Gregory had to drop a marker as part of the competition.

Peter Gregory, 25, died when his balloon plummeted to the ground near the village of Ombersley, Worcestershire, during a competition on June 25 last year

Peter Gregory, 25, died when his balloon plummeted to the ground near the village of Ombersley, Worcestershire, during a competition on June 25 last year

The accident occurred while the balloon was climbing away from a target on which Mr Gregory had to drop a marker as part of the competition

The accident occurred while the balloon was climbing away from a target on which Mr Gregory had to drop a marker as part of the competition

The remains of an amateur built balloon which was involved in a fatal accident on June 2023

The remains of an amateur built balloon which was involved in a fatal accident on June 2023

The report stated he may have used a high rate of climb to 'gain a competitive edge because of his desire to do well in the competition'.

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Mr Gregory had competed in balloon competitions around the world for several years.

The AAIB said it was told by several people who knew him that he was a 'very safe pilot' but was 'competitive and wanted to win'.

An unnamed friend said he was one of 'the world's best pilots, but (he) would push the limits of what (he) could do'.

Investigators were also told the competition at which he died 'held more significance' as he had missed other events due to work commitments, and needed to achieve a high enough score to qualify for international contests.

The balloon was a racing balloon built by Mr Gregory using 'high quality materials', the AAIB said.

Amateur-built balloons such as his are unregulated in terms of airworthiness.

No evidence was found of performance limits being determined, including the rate of climb which could stall the parachute.

Investigators were also told the competition at which he died 'held more significance' as Mr Gregory had missed other events due to work commitments (Pictured: an amateur built balloon in flight)

Investigators were also told the competition at which he died 'held more significance' as Mr Gregory had missed other events due to work commitments (Pictured: an amateur built balloon in flight)

The remains of Mr Gregory's balloon basket on its side showing burners, operating line and burnt heat-resistant material

The remains of Mr Gregory's balloon basket on its side showing burners, operating line and burnt heat-resistant material

A hole burned through the material of the racing balloon built by Mr Gregory for the competition

A hole burned through the material of the racing balloon built by Mr Gregory for the competition

The remains of the twin burners mounted on a frame above the basket of the balloon that plummeted to the ground in June 2023

The remains of the twin burners mounted on a frame above the basket of the balloon that plummeted to the ground in June 2023

Investigators said the climb, the balloon's design and the weather conditions all likely contributed to the crash (Pictured: The damaged streamer with a soldered link)

Investigators said the climb, the balloon's design and the weather conditions all likely contributed to the crash (Pictured: The damaged streamer with a soldered link)

Lines used to control the parachute's position were attached to the envelope lower than on other balloon types, providing improved responsiveness but increasing the stalling risk, according to the AAIB.

The report also noted there was 'a strong wind gradient on the day of the accident', and 'climbing into a changing wind can cause the balloon to distort, increasing the chance of a stall'.

The AAIB made three safety recommendations to the British Ballooning and Airship Club, including the development of an 'effective reporting culture within the ballooning community'.

Two recommendations were made to the Civil Aviation Authority, such as publishing guidance related to the oversight of competition balloon flying.

Following the fatal incident in June 2023, Mr Gregory's family paid tribute to the pilot and said his 'passion for flying was something others could only admire'.

They added: 'On the morning of Sunday, June 25, [2023] our Pilot Pete took one last flight, doing what he loved.

'When he set his heart to something, he'd never give up, he was driven and determined, and one could only watch on in awe. We will fly together again soon Pete. We love you. Dan, Mummy, Daddy & Emma.'

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