"Half the art of ballooning is to make your crashes so gentle that you can fool yourself into calling them landings."
The first steps.
Become a Hot Air Balloon Crew person for a Private Balloon Team or Commercial Balloon Company – see Crew.
Study the following information and downloads depending on your location. No matter where you live The Ballooning Manual by R and C Howes is a fantastic resource and well worth the purchase. See if you can get a second hand copy!
If you are in the US or your Air Law is regulated by the FAA
The Federal Aviation Administration has published these two guides for new Hot Air Balloon pilots. Great resources for a new student.
These publication help extensively with the theory behind Ballooning and the information you need to study.
One other book we would highly recommend you do invest in is The Ballooning Manual this is an fantastic book for those wishing to be a Balloon Pilot.
From you local FAA office you will need to obtain a Student Pilot Certificate which allows you to start training as a balloon pilot.
A trainee balloon pilot must have at least 10 hours flying instruction including six flight with an instructor, one solo flight, one ascent to 2000 feet above take off point and 2 flights of 1 hour each within 60 days prior to a rating application. The minimum age is 16.
You must also pass a written FAA knowledge test and pass a Practical Knowledge test – both oral and flight given by a designated FAA Examiner or Inspector.
If you are in the UK or your Air Law is regulated by the CAA
In the UK the ‘Private Pilot’s Licence, Balloons and Airships’ is in two parts. Practical and theory.
A trainee pilot requires the following;
- Minimum of 16 hours flying instruction within 24 months
- A minimum of 6 flights (take off and landing)
- Four flights with a British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) approved instructor
- Must keep a BBAC training log (BBAC Requirement)
- Must be recommended by a BBAC approved instructor for a flight test
- A check flight with a CAA appointed examiner
- Perform a solo flight under supervision of CAA Examiner
- The minimum age is 17
Four written examinations have to also be taken and passed with the 24 month window:
- Air Law
- Balloon Systems
- Human Performance
A medical declaration of fitness signed by a GP must also be provided.
Useful CAA Ballooning publications
If you are in the Australia or your Air Law is regulated by CASA
In order to obtain a Balloon Pilot Licence you must learn how to operate a balloon safely and you have to know the rules and regulations that govern flying in Australia. Flight training includes 16 hours consisting of untethered flight (supervised), dual instructional flying, target-height and solo flights as well as Hot Air ground school training. You must also pass theory exams before you are granted a licence. The minimum age is 16.
The first thing that you should do to become a pilot in Australia is join the Australian Ballooning Federation (ABF).
Six written examinations have to also be taken and passed:
- Flight Rules And Procedure
- Aerostats and AIrmanship
- Land Owner code of conduct
- Radio Operations
These publications are put out by the Australian Ballooning Association and cover all that is needed to know for a Hot Air Balloon Licence.
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 1
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 2
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 3
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 4
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 5
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 6
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 7
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 8
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 9
- ABF Pilot Training Manual Part 10
- ABF Temporary Membership and Pilot Certificate Application
- ABF Pilot Certificate Application
Generic information that every potential pilot need know
No matter where you live to obtain a Hot Air Balloon pilot license means enlisting the help of qualified people. You will also need access to a Hot Air Balloon.
Access to a Balloon for training purposes is possible through;
- Some clubs have training balloons to help new pilots obtain their license.
- Normally qualified balloon pilot license trainers have their own balloons you can use for a rental fee.
- Often if you help crew for a balloon team one of the ‘perks’ is access to the balloon for training.
- You buy a balloon. The costs to do this ranges from approximately $10,000 US for a fairly old second hand balloon to $60,000 US for a new, state of the art balloon. This cost might be offset if you can work out some sort of sponsorship arrangement. But be aware many countries do not allow a private pilot to receive and sort of payment for flying a balloon unless they become a Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot.
Check out our list of Balloonist’s Essential Equipment here.