If you have always enjoyed being in a hot air balloon, you may wonder what it takes to become a pilot.
You can become a hot air balloon pilot for your own recreation, or you can get a commercial license.
If you are looking to become a commercial hot air balloon pilot, the requirements are likely going to be a little more complicated.
We have gathered some great information to help you know and understand what goes into becoming a hot air balloon pilot.
How to Become a Hot Air Balloon Pilot
When you decide you want to become a hot air balloon pilot, you need to determine how committed you are.
Is this going to be your next career, or are you just wanting to take out a few friends on the weekend?
Do you plan on having other passengers in the hot air balloon, or do you want to fly yourself?
There are three levels of licensing to operate a hot air balloon.
The first level is the student level.
Students are allowed to go up in the hot air balloon and learn how to fly, so they can practice and learn and fly themselves around.
A student is not allowed to carry other passengers.
The next step up from a student hot air balloon pilot would be a private balloon pilot.
Private balloon pilots can take passengers with them, but they can’t charge those passengers.
This is an excellent option if you have some friends or family you want to take up in a hot air balloon.
The highest level of certification for a hot air balloon pilot would be the commercial balloon pilot.
This level takes quite a bit more practice and time invested.
At the commercial level, you can charge people for stepping aboard your hot air balloon.
With the commercial certification, you can start to turn this from a hobby into a business.
Before you start this process, you will need to figure out which level of certification you are looking for.
We will break down the three different levels so you can see what is involved and decide what you may have the time or expertise to accomplish.
Becoming a Student Hot Air Balloon Pilot
A student hot air balloon pilot must have some personal requirements in place before they can move to their flying and testing portion of the certification.
For starters, a student pilot must be over the age of fourteen.
Although this may break the heart of some young children, fourteen is still relatively young when you consider that, in most states, this is not old enough to drive.
For student hot air balloon pilots, you must also be able to read and write and have no medical conditions that would prevent you from safely operating an aircraft.
For a complete list of medical conditions, you will have to check local requirements at a testing center near you.
Some of the medical conditions that will immediately disqualify a student pilot are vision issues.
Being able to see where you are navigating the balloon is essential.
Once you have the personal requirements in place, you will need to make sure you get something called an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application.
This is going to be issued by an FAA inspector who will determine your ability to operate an aircraft safely.
Student pilots will be able to pilot only under the supervision of an instructor.
After many hours of practice and getting an instructor to sign off, the student pilot is allowed to fly on their own.
Student pilots must remember that learning how to operate an aircraft accurately is going to include things related to takeoff, landing, pre-flight work, climbing, descending, and emergencies.
Before a student pilot can operate the aircraft on their own, they need to be able to manage any situation that may be thrown their way.
Hot air balloon pilots need to know how to handle wind gusts and air streams as well.
Although hot air balloons will not fly in poor weather conditions most of the time, it is best to know how to handle these situations should they occur.
How to Get a Private Balloon Pilot Certificate
The private hot air balloon certification takes on a bit more responsibility.
At this level, it will not just be you or the instructor in the aircraft.
Since you will have other passengers on board, there is an increased safety risk, and it will be shown in the skills it takes to earn this certification.
To start off, if you want to be a private balloon pilot, you will need to have your student pilot certificate.
You will also have to be sixteen years old at this point.
If you were young when you got your student certificate, you must have a few years of flying before you can move to the private balloon pilot certificate.
One of the things that sets the private balloon pilot certification apart is where you start to see flight time requirements.
If you have not spent enough time in the air, you cannot take other people up there with you.
You will need ten hours minimum of flight training.
These hours must include a mix of time under the supervision of an instructor, going above 2,000 feet, two long flights, and at least one solo flight.
The idea here is that you are supposed to have general knowledge as to how to handle both short and long flights and how to ascend and descend at higher altitudes.
In addition to the flight and personal requirements, you will need to pass a written test given by the FAA.
This test is given to all people who operate aircraft.
Therefore, if you hold a pilot certificate for any type of powered aircraft, you would be exempt from this part of the testing.
The last requirement of the private hot air balloon pilot testing is the Practical Knowledge Test.
This is another FAA requirement, and again, it deals with your ability to handle any type of situation that could arise while operating a hot air balloon.
Obtaining your Private Balloon Pilot certificate is a big step, but taking other people on a flight is a big responsibility, and this is a required step in becoming a commercial balloon pilot.
Becoming a Commerical Hot Air Balloon Pilot
The last level of certification is undoubtedly the hardest to obtain.
To become a commercial hot air balloon pilot, you will need to have completed both the student and the private training.
You will likely have been flying for several years before you make it to this point.
To have the comfort and the skill to be able to take paying customers aboard your hot air balloon certainly takes focus, energy, and time.
For this level of certification, you will need to be eighteen years of age.
You will have had to complete the Private Hot Air Ballon certification before trying to increase your license to commercial.
If you remember, the private license required you to spend about ten hours as a pilot, but with the commercial, you must have 35 hours.
If you are an airplane pilot looking to transition to hot air balloons, you will only need to add 20 hours of hot air balloon time.
The overall requirement is 35 hours, but at least twenty need to be in a balloon.
The road to becoming a commercial hot air balloon pilot is certainly a bit easier for a pilot than a person who has never flown before.
During those 35 hours, you will have to practice lots of different situations, including going above 3,000 feet, several long flights, a solo flight, a few flights as the pilot in command while the instructor is just along for the ride.
You will also have to pass the same written test you did to get a Private Hot Air Balloon Pilot license.
If you have these tests in place and they are still current, then you may be able to use them towards your commercial certification.
For Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilots, the learning and training are never complete.
You will have to spend lots of hours flying and taking some continuing education steps.
If you are going to be flying people as part of a business, there are insurance requirements in place that will make you keep your license active and accurate.
You will not be able to obtain a Commerical Hot Air Balloon Pilot License and then come back ten years later, step on a balloon and take six people for a ride.
At this point, you will be spending much more of your time perfecting your craft and earning the flight time to handle larger balloons.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Hot Air Balloon License?
Now that you have all the information you could ever need about becoming a hot air balloon pilot, you may be wondering what this will cost.
As with all things, the cost is going to depend on where you are, who is teaching, and the speed you want to move through the class.
You may be able to find some specials in your area, depending on how busy business is.
Most people find that the cost of completing the commercial hot air balloon pilot license is going to be around $3000–$4000.
The majority of the money will be spent on the time the instructor gives you in the aircraft.
Since they are certified instructors, their time is valuable, and with needing 35 hours, you can see how the costs would add up.
You will undoubtedly need to have a reason and a goal in mind to get a commercial hot air balloon license.
If you want to try flying a hot air balloon, the student license is the way to go.
This will cost closer to $1000 and can be done in a much shorter period.
Getting to fly in a hot air balloon is an exceptional and unique experience.
If you want to take this experience to a whole new level, then becoming a pilot is the way to go.
Deciding to become a hot air balloon pilot is a big decision.
The overall safety of flying a hot air balloon is remarkably safe, but there is always a risk and even added risk when passengers come along for the ride.
If you are up for this and you think that a career as a hot air balloon pilot is for you, then get started working on your student license today!
The process is going to take time, so you may as well get things going.