FAA balloon pilot license

Balloon Pilot's License

The following information is extracted and simplified from the Federal Aviation Regulation Part 61 -- Certification: Pilots and Flight Instructors

A student pilot's certification must be obtained before beginning training. Successful completion of training leads to a private pilot's certificate, lighter-than-air category with a free balloon class rating. After further training and experience a commercial rating may be obtained, qualifying an individual to fly for hire or to instruct. The following are the general requirements for student, private and commercial certificates.

Subpart C -- Student Pilots

  • A student must be at least 14 years of age.

  • He must be able to read, speak and understand the English language (some exceptions allowed).

  • No medical certificate is required, but the applicant must certify that he has no known medical defect that makes him unable to pilot a free balloon.

  • Student pilot certificates may be issued by FAA inspectors or designated pilot examiners.

  • Student pilots may solo after demonstrating to their instructor that they are familiar with Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations and are proficient in the following aspects of balloon operation: pre-flight preparation, operation of controls, lift-off and climb, descent and landing, and emergency situations.

  • A student pilot may fly a balloon only under the supervision of a qualified instructor. He may not carry passengers or fly a balloon for hire.

Subpart D -- Private Pilots

  • To be eligible for a free balloon private pilot's certificate a person must be at least 16 years of age.

  • Read, speak and understand the English language.

  • No medical certificate required. Same as paragraph 3 above.

  • The applicant must pass a written test on such items as: (a) Federal Aviation Regulations covering pilot privileges, limitations and flight procedures, (b) use of navigation charts, (c) recognition of weather conditions and use for weather reports, (d) operating procedures with gas and hot air balloons.

  • The applicant must have received instruction on the following pilot operations: (a) ground handling and inflation, (b) pre-flight checks, (c) takeoff and ascents, (d) descents and landings, (e) emergency conditions.

  • Flight experience must include at least 10 hours in free balloons, which must include 6 flights under supervision of an instructor. These flights must include at least the following: tow flights of at least 30 minutes duration, one ascent to 3000 feet above takeoff point, and one solo flight (these requirements are for air balloons; requirements for gas balloons are slightly different).

Subpart E -- Commercial Pilots

  • The age requirement for a commercial pilot certificate is 18 years.

  • Read, speak and understand the English language.

  • No medical certificate required. Same as paragraph 3 above.

  • The applicant must pass a more advanced written test on the subject matter listed in paragraph 4 above, additional operating procedures relating to commercial operations, and those duties required of a flight instructor.

  • Advanced training must be received from an authorized instructor including those items listed in paragraph 5 above plus emergency recovery from a terminal velocity descent.

  • The applicant for a commercial certificate must have at least 35 hours of flight time as a pilot, of which 20 hours must be in balloons, 6 under the supervision of an instructor, 2 solo flights, 2 flights of at least one duration, and one flight to 5000 feet above the take-off point.

  • The holder of a commercial pilot's certificate may operate a balloon for hire and may give flight instruction.