I remember my first motorcycle test drive. I flunked. It wasn't too bad getting it going, but the damn thing didn't want to turn. I wanted to. It didn't. To decide the winner, it flipped me for it. It wasn't at all surprising to me that it didn't have a seat belt, because then I thought the only things that needed seat belts (called "Safety Belts" in those days) were things that were meant to go upside down.
Even at summer camp, the horses didn't have seat belts. I realize that bull riders in the rodeo have tie down leather thongs, but those thongs that sometimes don't let go are the cause of many rodeo injuries. (Why they don't use radio operated explosive releases controlled by the rider's aide or the judging officials, I don't know. It certainly is within the reliable state of the art and would cost just pennies.) I probably could have stayed on the horse longer if I had been strapped in place, but the hazards of that certainly outweigh the benefits.
Middlestatt's original Vulcoon Sport Balloon design, when I arrived at Raven, included a seat belt. Not wanting to be strapped into the thing and so not being able to duck in the event of a tree branch contact, I removed it from the design. But Dr. McGrath, the first person to buy an S-40 Raven Vulcoon, worried that "because the view was so beautiful" he would drift off and fall out of the swing seat, wanted one. In my naiveté I argued against it and don't know whether he ever installed one or not. (Since it was an experimental aircraft, he could have, with no trouble from the FAA.)
With the little hang balloons and tank riders I wanted to be able to get off - quick. Hit the ground a running rather than being dragged along like a hapless rodeo rider was my thought. That is the way Yost and Keuser did it with the ONR units before I came along to do "Sport Ballooning" and made still landings on smooth fields in gentle breezes. At 2 knots or 20, I still wouldn't want to be a prisoner, on rough ground or smooth.
But a basket, like a race car with a roll bar, is different. My baskets didn't have roll bars. When I was racing cars, there was some dissension about seat belts. We didn't have roll bars and a lot of drivers thought they would prefer to be "thrown clear" in a crash. I felt about the same - if my balloon was in such big trouble, I'd be happy to abandon ship, roll on the ground and watch the rag drag. But it never happened. The suspension system pulled against my center of gravity, not having rigid uprights and so didn't throw me out.
If a basket flies into the ground at a high speed, and the balloon is descending so as to slacken the suspension, there is nothing to keep the basket from rolling up in a ball, except the uprights, if it has them. (That is the case whether you have an instant deflation system like a pop top or not.) If it doesn't have the uprights, there are no forces to "throw you clear" so you get rolled up in the ball too, get "Dog housed". If it has the suspension fixed on rigid uprights, when the lines set tight the uprights will be a lever arm and snap the basket back into line with the suspension centerline of force. That has snapped baskets out from under the hapless pilot.
With the military plastic balloons which were released on touch down (now that is an instant deflation system) the first baskets dog housed, so just plain boards were used, but they dug in and flipped, so Ed Yost invented the curved board that we used in the English Channel crossing. That worked slick in the muddy field in France.
Like an automobile on a wash board road in a curve that looses traction, a basket rocketing horizontally across the ground, that isn't dog housed, provides no traction for the pilot to stay in place. So if he is pulling for all he's worth on a deflation line, he may just be pulling himself out of the basket rather than pulling the deflation panel in. Then is when a pilot anchor could save the day. If he doesn't have a low tension rip cord like mine or Kavanagh's he surely needs one.
In the marine world, the captain goes down with the ship if there are any passengers left. It should be true for the aero world, too. In Britain, to ensure this, commercial passenger balloons have their pilots secured. ("Will the last passenger out please unlock the pilot?")
Should there be pilot restraints? Should such things be mandated? Should it be different for paid charter passenger operations and athletic sport activities? The U. S. FAA Part 31.63 (December 20, 1976) (a) requires safety belt, harness, or other restraining means for each occupant, unless the Administrator finds it.... (b) ...does not apply to...basket. Do the accident statistics indicate that it is a clear and present danger? If it is not a basket in a tempest, is it a tempest in a tea pot? "Myself, I like a good belt after the flight," say Cordon Rouge.