The idea of piloting a hot air balloon is intriguing and exciting, but can anyone do it?
Turns out, with the right training and equipment, just about anyone could be up in the sky.
The answer is yes.
Anyone can pilot a hot air balloon, but it takes training and practice to become an experienced pilot.
It’s also important to have the proper safety equipment on board for each passenger who will be riding in your balloon when you go up into the air.
Well, as long as you have the skills and know-how of an experienced pilot, there’s no reason why not.
The question is though; what are the requirements for becoming a hot air balloon pilot?
- Understanding weather patterns and how to plan routes based on those.
- Ability to read maps and charts.
- Knowing what altitude is safe during different stages of flight (e.g., takeoff).
A hot air balloon might not seem like a complicated machine, but it is actually quite complex.
There are many things to know in order to pilot one successfully.
For example, you need to understand the vents and valves that go on top of the balloon before you can fly it.
And if any of those parts break, you need to be able to fix them yourself because there’s no way around getting back down from 10-20 thousand feet up.
You also need basic knowledge about physics – how much weight will affect how high your balloon goes for instance.
With that knowledge in tow, there’s no question about it; anyone can become a hot air balloon pilot.
In order to gain experience however, you’ll need time spent learning from an experienced coach or instructor-and possibly even get your license if necessary state laws require it.
You’ll learn all these skills and more with a course or two at a flight school.
Do I need a License to fly a hot air balloon?
Have you ever wondered if it is illegal to fly a hot air balloon without a license?
What are the regulations around balloon flights in your country, state or city?
It turns out that there’s no law against flying balloons for recreation, but it can be complicated to figure out how to do so legally.
No. You do not need a license to fly a hot air balloon, only training so you can operate it safely and legally.
If you are an inexperienced pilot who has never flown before then we recommend that you have at least some flight experience in order to improve your chances of safety when flying for the first time.
Training is essential as well because if anything ever happens during a flight such as engine failure or wind changes, they will be more prepared with their emergency training than someone without any training whatsoever.
The best way to learn how to fly balloons is by taking courses from schools and organizations like Ballooning Australia which offer comprehensive beginner-level classes on all aspects of handling them, including safety procedures.
In addition, if it’s your first flight then we recommend that you take in as many sights as possible while on board because with each new experience will come an even greater appreciation for what is happening around them which could lead to increased safety during flights in the future.
If you want even more safety and peace of mind, you can also hire a professional pilot to fly the balloon for you.
How do you get a hot air balloon License?
The hot air balloon licensing process is a lengthy but rewarding one.
A pilot must first complete the necessary coursework and exams to obtain their Private Pilot Certificate or Commercial Pilot Certificate, as well as take an FAA-approved flight review every two years.
They will need to have medical certification from a licensed physician and pass the written knowledge exam for a license of that type before being able to schedule any practical test with the National Association of Air Traffic Controller’s (NAATCO) representative at an FAA facility.
If it’s just single-handed operation of your hot air balloon, then no licensing is required as long as flights are made within UK airspace (i.e., above 60 metres).
However if you want permission to fly outside of this area then you would need some form of aviation authority approval from either the CAA or the National Flying Association in Ireland depending on where that flight takes place.
To get a pilot’s license, you need to have 200 hours of flight time as the balloon’s navigator-held ropes that tether the balloon to the ground.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt if this person is also adept at operating an engine or stroking a fire with gasoline cans in order to ascend into higher altitudes while staying on target until they reach their destination.
In addition to those requisite qualifications, pilots must be CPR certified and undergo strict background checks before receiving approval from authorities in some countries (including Canada).
They’ll also need 50 hours solo flying experience for desert flights under “low visibility” conditions including partial obscuration and atmospheric conditions that limit visibility.
If you are a pilot of other aircraft, as long as your hot air balloon is classed as an ultralight (less than 120 kg total weight) then no additional qualifications should be required to fly it in the UK.
Flights can take place within restricted airspace without any need for permissions.
If it’s heavier than this or if you want permission to fly outside of these parameters then you will have to undergo the same process outlined above.
Either the CAA or National Flying Association depending on where that flight takes place.
Commercial Balloon Pilot Certificate
A commercial balloon pilot certificate is a valuable certification for anyone looking to fly commercially.
It’s also the first step in becoming an airship pilot, which offers more than just a spectacular view of the world below.
The certification process consists of a written examination, oral examination, and flight evaluation.
One of the first steps in becoming a commercial balloon pilot is to take and complete an FAA approved ground school course.
These courses are available on-site at many ballooning companies, or online through various aviation schools.
The next step for would-be pilots is to find out how much it costs to get their Commercial Pilot Certificate from the FAA.
Oftentimes it is cheaper to enroll in a ballooning company’s ground school course than purchase the certificate alone.
It costs about $750-$1000 USD for the FAA approved Commercial Balloon Pilot Certificate, which includes two exams and an application fee.
However, some individuals opt to take on-site courses from their local balloon company at much lower rates (usually around $200).
The type of card you need depends on what country your are trying to fly within or over.
If flying internationally then all pilots must have an International Civil Aviation Organization license issued by a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) located near them.
It is usually cheaper to enroll in a company ground school course than purchase the certificate alone.
However, some individuals opt for on-site courses offered by their local company at much lower rates.
I’m Annie, a twenty-something year old girl who loves hot air balloons. So much so, that I have a full time job as a Flight Instructor and it is all I love talking about. Something about being up there in the elevated altitudes helps all my stresses float away!