How do you become a Hot Air Balloon Pilot?

 Two questions that we get asked most often are “How do you become a hot air balloon pilot?” and “Do you need a license for a hot air balloon?” Currently it is much easier and more affordable to become a hot air balloon pilot than any other across aviation. We have broken down how to become a balloon pilot below.  

The first step as always is to determine your own level of interest in becoming a hot air balloon pilot and what you would like to get from hot air ballooning. If you have never been on a hot air balloon ride this is the first thing you need to do! Join us for your first hot air balloon ride on one of our flights. 

Are you interested in flying yourself, family and friends in your own hot air balloon or looking for a career offering hot air balloon rides to paying passengers, both are more than achievable to almost anyone. 

To answer the question “Do you need a license for a hot air balloon?” The answer is yes! There are two types of hot air balloon licenses a Private Pilots License (PPL) or a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and we will explain what they allow you to do and the qualifications you need to fly a hot air balloon. 

The two different types of hot air balloon licenses:

  • A Private Pilots License will allow you to fly passengers but not in any commercial capacity. This is relatively easy to achieve and means you can enjoy the delights of hot air ballooning with friends and family. To lessen the cost per flight you are allowed to cost share the flights for up to four passengers and the pilot must pay his or her share also. 
  • A Commercial Pilots License allows you to fly passengers for hire and reward. Perhaps you can see your career taking to new heights offering hot air balloon rides for a local or national balloon ride business at home or abroad. A CPL is slightly harder to achieve than a PPL but we will breakdown all the qualifications you need to become a Private or Commercial balloon pilot. 

What qualifications do you need to fly a Hot Air Balloon ?

Private Pilots License

The minimum requirements to gain a PPL. In addition to the below you will need to self declare yourself fit to fly.

  • 16 Hours flight time under supervision 
  • 4 Instructor flights 
  • 5 Written exams (20 multiple choice questions each)
    • Air Law
    • Navigation 
    • Meteorology 
    • Human Performance 
    • Balloon Systems
  • 1 Flight test 
  • 1 Solo flight 

Anyone over the age of 16 can become a private hot air balloon pilot and you should start by joining the British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) to order your log book and training log book. Many people who want to become a hot air balloon pilot will start crewing for an experienced pilot to get hands on experience of what is takes to become a balloonist. You have a two year window to complete all your training to become a hot air balloon pilot but this can be achieved in 6 months or less. 

If you would like to keep hot air ballooning as a hobby rather than a profession, there are still many exciting opportunities open to you. You could travel the world attending hot air balloon fiestas where you will entertain crowds in their thousands. You could also show off your skills and compete in competition ballooning which is accuracy based flying such as dropping markers onto a target. 

If you want to go further and become a Commercial Balloon Pilot then you need to complete the following training as well as the training above. 

Commercial Pilots License

A Commercial License is slightly harder to achieve and first requires you to hold your PPL. To fully complete your Commercial License it takes around two years. The requirements to become a commercial balloon pilot are below. 

  • 5 Commercial theory exams 
    • Aviation Law, Flight Rules and Procedures 
    • Human Performance and Limitations 
    • Navigation 
    • Meteorology 
    • Aircraft General Balloons
  • Minimum of 75 hours as pilot of balloons 
  • Minimum 60 hours as PIC of balloons.
  • 15 hours of instruction in flying as pilot of balloons 
    • Including assent to at least 5000ft 
    • 2 Tethered flights 
    • Cross-country flight of at least 20km

You need to be at least 18 years of age and hold a Class 1 or 2 medical and a radio course (RT).  

You learn to fly balloons by experience and that’s why if you are serious about flying hot air balloons you need to put as much time and effort into flying as you possibly can. 

How much does it cost to become a Hot Air Balloon pilot UK?

This really depends how you go about becoming a hot air balloon pilot. We suggest the best way is to start crewing for a hot air balloon company or local pilots and to join your regional hot air balloon club and the BBAC. Pilots will often exchange crewing for training flights or introduce you to others who will help you on your way. Become part of the community, all of whom will be very helpful in getting you a balloon pilots license. Make a start today by contacting us and we will get you started and introduce you to the right people. You would most likely be looking at an investment of £5,000 - £7,000 to become a private balloon pilot. 

Due to expected changes coming to balloon licensing now scheduled for the end of 2023 it is better to start sooner rather than later. These changes will make it more expensive and difficult to become a balloon pilot. 

Contact us today to find out more or book your first hot air balloon ride with us. 

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