Hot Air Balloon Pilot
In 1783 a Frenchman attempted the world’s first hot air balloon flight. Today, thousands of people enjoy the peaceful adventure of floating through the skies in hot air balloons. Imagine being at the mercy of the winds in a balloon – the quiet floating sensation, a bird’s eye view of everything, and a sense of freedom. Rolling countrysides, sprawling cities, colorful deserts, rugged coastlines, or magical mountains – it’s all there for you to enjoy in a hot air balloon. Did you know that people make their living piloting hot air balloons?
If you’ve seen a hot air balloon floating peacefully over your head, you know what it consists of. It basically is a massive, colorful bag with a large basket or gondola attached underneath it. A propane heater is used to heat up the air in the balloon. As the air heats up, the balloon rises into the friendly skies for a truly tranquil adventure.
Ballooning is a year round activity for excited tourists, eager advertisers, and enthusiastic competitors. The one thing that every hot air balloon needs is a skilled and certified hot air balloon pilot. To become a hot air balloon pilot, you need to be passionate about ballooning. Most hot air balloon pilots start by flying recreationally before they dive into the world of commercial hot air ballooning. To gain the necessary training, most pilots attend hot air balloon flight school.
In order to meet the Federal Aviation Administration’s Ligher-Than-Air Testing Standard for Balloons, flight schools explore practical knowledge and flight instruction. Ground school topics that are covered include meteorology, airmanship, navigation, flight rules, codes of conduct, pre and post flight procedures, airport operations, balloon maneuvers, emergency procedures, and FAA regulations. To become a pilot, you need to be 18 years old, log 35 hours of flight time as a pilot, 20 hours of flight time in balloons, 6 hours of flight time with an instructor, 2 solo flights, 2 flights over 1 hour, and 1 flight that rises over 5,000 vertical feet. Most aspiring balloon pilots finish flight school in about 3 months. Then it’s time for a flight test with an FAA examiner.
After the FAA certifies you as a Certified Hot Air Balloon Pilot you can fly passengers for money. You can operate for hire, provide instruction, or do other commercial activities. It may be wise to work with an established company to learn the industry, before you invest in your own balloons to start your own business. Some hot air balloon enthusiasts work to organize balloon festivals or find jobs with balloon manufacturers like Cameron Balloons, Ultramagic, or Firefly Balloons.
As a certified hot air balloon pilot, you will fly year round, or at least when the weather is optimal. The typical day for a hot air balloon pilot consists of weather checks, balloon preparation, local wind data decisions with helium balloons, fuel decisions, flying, landings, and pickups. As with any pilot job, safety is the primary concern. Always remember to know both your’s and the balloon’s limits.
It’s hard to nail down the salary of a hot air balloon pilot. Most hot air balloon pilots are paid based on the number of clients they fly with or the number of flights they log. Most pilots can count assume they will make between $30,000 to $100,000 per year.
Learn more about the ballooning industry by going to a balloon festival or paying for a flight to see if you enjoy the peaceful floating adventure of a hot air balloon ride. If so, maybe it’s time to research hot air balloon flight schools and earn your commercial pilot license. It’s an amazing way to earn a paycheck.
Hot Air Balloon Pilot Quick Facts
Job Title: Hot Air Balloon Pilot, Balloonist
Office: The friendly skies
Description: Fly hot air balloons for sightseeing tours, competitions, or advertising
Certifications/Education: FAA’s Certified Hot Air Balloon Pilot
Necessary Skills: Knowledge of balloons, aviation rules
Potential Employers: Hot air balloon flight schools, sightseeing companies
Pay: Based on number of passengers or number of flights logged