Flying a hot air balloon is usually both a hobby and work.
To learn how to fly a hot air balloon, you need to take a series of lessons. You move up the levels until you are qualified to fly solo – and then you go through further training in order to take passengers.
You can either become a recreational hot air balloon pilot or obtain a commercial license.
If you want to become a commercial hot air balloon pilot, the criteria will most certainly be more complicated.
Read on if you want some some useful material to help you learn more about what it takes to become a hot air balloon pilot. We cover the air balloon training flights required, the balloon pilot certificate examinations to get a commercial balloon license, knowledge of flight regulations and more.
When you decide to become a hot air balloon pilot, you must first establish your level of commitment and what kind of air balloon pilot license you want. It will also help to think about what kind of hot air balloon flights you want to pilot.
Is this going to be your next career, or are you simply looking for a fun weekend outing with some friends?
Do you want to share the hot air balloon with other people or do you want to travel alone? The amount of hot air balloon training needed will determine this for you.
The Three Levels
Operating a hot air balloon requires three levels of licensing. The initial level is that of a pupil.
Students are permitted to go in a hot air balloon and learn to fly so that they can practice, learn, and soar around. A student is not permitted to transport other people.
This is the time to go to flight school to obtain your student pilot license.
Private Balloon Pilot
A private balloon pilot is the next step up from a student hot air balloon pilot. Private balloon pilots are permitted to transport people, but they are not permitted to charge such passengers, like they can on commercial flights
If you want to take some friends or family up in a hot air balloon, this is a great alternative.
Commercial Balloon Pilot
Commercial balloon pilot is the highest degree of qualification for a hot air balloon pilot. This level takes a significant amount of effort and time.
You can charge people to ride in your hot air balloon on a commercial level. You can start turning this from a pastime to a business with the commercial certification. You must first choose which level of certification you require before beginning this process.
We’ll break down the three stages so you can see what’s involved and determine whether you have the time or training requirements to complete them.
Before moving on to the flying and testing stage of the certification, a student hot air balloon pilot must meet specific personal prerequisites. For starters, a student pilot must be at least fourteen years old.
Although this may break the hearts of some young children, fourteen is still a young age when you realize that most countries do not allow people under the age of fourteen to drive.
You must also be able to read and write, and have no medical issues that would prevent you from safely operating an aircraft as a student hot air balloon pilot.
You’ll have to check local regulations at a testing location near you for a complete list of medical conditions. This is the road to getting your medical certificate. This will also reflect your insurance requirements.
Vision problems are one of the medical factors that may automatically disqualify a student pilot. It’s critical to be able to see where you’re navigating the balloon.
Once you’ve completed the personal criteria, you’ll need to fill out an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application. This will be given by an FAA inspector who will assess your ability to safely pilot a plane.
Only under the supervision of an instructor will student pilots be able to fly.
The student pilot is authorized to fly on their own after several hours of practice and receiving an instructor’s approval.
Takeoff, landing, pre-flight work, climbing, descending, and emergencies are all things that student pilots must remember when learning how to operate an aircraft correctly.
A trainee pilot must be able to handle any circumstance that may arise before they may operate the aircraft on their own.
Pilots of hot air balloons must also be able to deal with wind gusts and air streams.
Although hot air balloons will not fly in bad weather most of the time, it is best to be prepared in case such a situation arises.
The certification for private hot air balloons entails a little more responsibility.
It won’t just be you and the instructor in the plane at this level.
Because there will be other passengers on board, there is a greater danger of accidents, which will be reflected in the abilities required to acquire this certification.
To begin, you’ll need your student pilot certificate if you want to be a private balloon pilot.
At this stage, you must also be sixteen years old.
If you received your student certificate when you were young, you must have a few years of experience flying before moving on to the private balloon pilot certificate.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes the private balloon pilot certification is the necessity for flight hours. You can’t take other people up with you if you haven’t spent enough time in the air.
A minimum of 10 hours of flight instruction is required.
These hours must include time spent under the supervision of an instructor, flying at altitudes more than 2,000 feet, two lengthy flights, and at least one solo flight.
The objective is that you should have a broad understanding of how to fly all lengths of flights, as well as how to go up and down at higher altitudes.
You must pass a written test administered by the FAA in addition to the flight and personal criteria. This is known as the FAA knowledge test. You will take this test through a designated FAA flight examiner. All persons who operate aircraft are subjected to this test.
As a result, if you have a pilot certificate for any type of powered aircraft, you are exempt from this portion of the examination.
The Practical Knowledge Test is the final prerequisite of the private hot air balloon pilot testing.
Another FAA requirement, this one concerns your ability to deal with any situation that may arise while operating a hot air balloon.
Getting your certificate is a major step, but flying other people is much bigger, and it’s a requirement for becoming a pilot at this highest of levels.
The final level of certification is unquestionably the most difficult to attain. You must have completed both the student and private training to become a commercial hot air balloon pilot.
Before you get to this point, you’ll most likely have been flying for several years. It takes a lot of effort, energy, and time to be comfortable and skilled enough to take paying guests onboard your hot air balloon. You must be eighteen years old to qualify for this level of hot air balloon license.
Before attempting to upgrade your license to commercial, you must first fulfill the Private Hot Air Balloon certification to be able to apply for your private pilot license, to become a commercial pilot.
If you recall, the private license required around ten hours of piloting experience, whereas the commercial license requires 35 hours.
If you’re a pilot who wants to switch to hot air balloons, you’ll simply need 20 hours of hot air balloon experience.
The total hours of flight training time needed is 35 hours, but at least 20 of them must be spent in a balloon.
Working For a Hot Air Balloon Company
A pilot’s path to switching to a commercial capacity and working for a hot air balloon company, is unquestionably easier than that of someone who has never flown before.
However, learning and training for commercial hot air balloon pilots is never complete.
You’ll have to put in a lot of time flying and complete some continuing education requirements.
If you plan to fly passengers for a living, there are insurance regulations that will need you to keep your license current and accurate.
You won’t be able to get a Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot License and then hop on a balloon and take six people for a ride ten years later.
You’ll be spending a lot more time at this point honing your craft and gaining the necessary flight experience to handle larger balloons.
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!