Becoming a hot air balloon pilot is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of time, dedication and determination to achieve that gleaming qualified pilots license. Hot air balloon flights are popular all over the world with thousands of people taking to the skies every year.
So it’s important every member of a hot best ballon rides crew are experienced and knowledgeable about all aspects of the balloon. This includes the pilot. They will need to know which role team members are responsible for, and what that role includes. Otherwise, they won’t know who to communicate with when landing.
Like all professions, hot air balloon pilots have to complete a series of exams and practical requirements before being able to qualify as a pilot.
Trainee pilots have to complete:
• A minimum of 16 hours logged. This means that before anyone can become a pilot they must have at least 16 hours of flying experience. Each balloon company will alter their minimum number of hours depending on their requirements, however the average number of hours is roughly 16.
• A minimum of four hours flying with a British Balloon and Airship club (BBAC) approved instructor. This may sound a bit scary now, but it’s necessary before any trainee can qualify. The instructors ensure study the way you fly the balloon and ensure you are ready to man hot air balloon flights. At the end of four hours worth of flying, the instructor awards a pass or fail mark.
• A 30 minute tethered flight, watched and approved by a BBAC qualified instructor. The reason the flight is tethered is because the trainee must complete this individually. It’s important for pilots to know the roles assigned to all crewmembers for all hot air balloon flights in case they ever need to fulfil that position.
• Undertaken and passed all 5 examinations. These include: Aviation Law, Meteorology, Ballooning Systems, Human Performance and Navigation. It’s important that every pilot knows as much about ballooning before qualifying which is why there are so many exams to pass. Each topic is relevant and necessary in order to begin manning hot air balloon flights, so studying hard is not a suggestion it’s a requirement!
• All of the above must be completed within 24 months. This is to ensure the knowledge gained during study periods and experience gained from working alongside professional pilots isn’t lost. It’s also to keep examinations relevant. At any time changes can be made to the law regarding hot air balloon flights and the legal practices all pilots must follow. So to ensure no trainee is taking an exam with out of date knowledge, the whole journey from trainee to qualified pilot must be done in a limited time frame.