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How to become a hot air balloon pilot?

IMG_1973Sitting outside in the summer, looking up and seeing a hot air balloon gracefully float past is always a serene treat.

But have you ever sat there and thought; I’d love to fly one of those things.
Well, becoming a hot air balloon pilot does not have to be as much of a pipe dream as you might think….

Becoming a hot air balloon pilot is something that anyone can undertake. Your background and experience are not limiting factors so if you dream to fly, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting involved in the wonderful sport of ballooning and achieving your license.

Getting started

The easiest way to get involved is to join your local balloon club and going along to a local event. Pilots are always eager for an extra pair of hands to help rig the balloon and crewing is a great way to start to build up your knowledge and experience of being around balloons. Once you feel you want a larger slice of the apple, that’s when you can look at getting your license…

Getting Your License

As a hot air balloon is a registered aircraft, you need to hold a Private Pilot’s License (PPL). In the UK, there are a number of milestones you have to achieve to get your license, but the general model is relatable across the ballooning world.


You have to complete all of your training within a 2 year window, and during that time you have to achieve 16 hours of flying as a P1 (pilot in command), with 4 of those flights needing to be with a certified instructor. This means you don’t have to have all your training flights with the same teacher, in fact it is recommended to fly with an array of pilots as people bring different skills and styles to the way they fly. There’s no limit on the number of training flights you can have within the 2 year period, so you can fly with as many pilots as you’d like.

You then have to have a recommendation flight with an instructor, who has to recommend you for a flight test with an examiner.

In addition to your 4 instructor flights you will also need a solo flight, where you’ll be observed by an instructor from the ground.

Away from the flying, there are also a number of written exams which have to be undertaken to get your license. You have to take written exams on the following subjects:

• Aviation Law
• Navigation
• Meteorology
• Balloon Systems
• Human Performance

Once you have a private pilot’s license, you then have the choice of advancing that to a Commercial Pilot License (CPL).

Getting a commercial license

In the UK, there are 2 types of commercial license. CPL (B) Restricted and CPL (B) Unrestricted.
CPL (B) restricted is required if you are undertaking work for a sponsor or being paid by a client to operate a balloon. In order to advance to this level, there are a number of additional milestones you have to tick off:

• A medical
• 35 hours of flight time in a balloon (with 15 of these being as pilot)
• 4 flights including 1 to above 5000ft
• 2 tethered flights ( a tethered flight is where the balloon is securely tied to the ground with ropes attached to tethering points and the balloon is suspended in the air at around 30/40ft depending on the length of the ropes)
• Another General Flight Test is then needed with an Examiner and a series of written exams are also needed to advance to the Commercial level.


For the unrestricted commercial license, CPL (B), in addition to these you would need a Class 2 medical certificate and a minimum of 75 hours as pilot in a balloon.
Being a commercial pilot opens new doors in terms of being able to fly paying passengers all over the world.

Where can hot air ballooning take you?

The opportunities for flying hot air balloons are almost limitless across the globe. With a private pilot’s license you can fly your own balloon at balloon festivals ranging from Mondial Air Balloons, a huge balloon festival in Metz France, the Sagrantino Cup in Tuscany, Italy to events in the UK.


Balloon festivals reach far beyond Europe too. You could find yourself piloting a balloon at events such as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, USA or the Taiwan International Balloon Festival.
As a commercial pilot, you could find yourself flying passengers across the ancient temples in Myanmar, across the Maasai Mara in Kenya or over the outback in Australia.


Having a hot air balloon pilot’s license can give you the opportunity to visit and travel the world in ways beyond imagination and join a very exclusive club around the world.

What are you waiting for your balloon license could be your passport to the world!

For further information contact Lindstrand Technologies Ltd.

Written by: Tom Orpin


About lhankey

Lindstrand Technologies Ltd is based in Oswestry, Shropshire in the UK. The Lindstrand team have been building lighter-than-air craft on the same site for over 25 years and has its designs certified in 48 countries.