Light Flight Hot Air Balloons, Inc. & Barnstormer Aero
Learning to Fly
How to Become a Balloon Pilot
Light Flight Hot Air Balloons provides flight training for Lighter-than-Air (LTA) Private and Commercial Hot Air Balloon licenses. While we offer rides in our biplane, we don't provide fixed wing or airplane flight instruction. If you want to learn to fly airplanes, and you live in our Central Maryland flying area, we suggest you contact Harford Air Services. If you live outside the area, the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association has a complete listing of flight schools.
Where do I start?
The first question to answer is, why do you want to be a balloon pilot? The reason we pose this question up front is; it takes a fair amount of time, dedication, and resources to become a balloon pilot. There are other things to consider as well, the number of job opportunities for careers in ballooning are limited. Perhaps most important is the fact that unless you intend to buy a balloon either before or after you get your license, you will not have an aircraft to fly. There are no places to rent hot air balloons the way you may rent airplanes! You will simply have an expensive certificate to show for your efforts. Ballooning is a physical sport and while you do not require an FAA medical certificate, you must have no physical condition that would prevent you from flying safely. You will be expected to assist in handling equipment weighing several hundred pounds, be able to withstand hard landings (yours not mine), and working outdoors in temperature extremes. Still interested? Great!
Their are many paths that one may take to obtain a license. The most usual, and highly recommended, is the path from crew person to pilot. That's someone who has been part of a balloon team and has experienced and learned a great deal about the sport by participating as a crew person for a pilot. Don't know what crewing is or what a crew person does? See our crew page for details. Crewing provides you the opportunity to learn, gain experience, and participate in the sport with only a commitment of time. Crewing will build a foundation of knowledge and better prepare you for training should you decide to pilot hot air balloons. We feel that having been a crew person also makes you a better pilot since you have walked a few miles in those shoes!
All training involves one-on-one lessons with a flight instructor. There is no certified flight instructor rating for balloons; the holder of a Commercial Balloon Pilot certificate may provide flight instruction.
To pilot a balloon you must have a pilot's license, or airman's certificate, just as you would for an airplane or any other aircraft. The only differences are the category of aircraft and the specific training requirements. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues balloon pilot licenses and we train for the Lighter-than-Air category, Hot Air Balloon with Airborne Heater rating. There is different training involved for gas balloons (those flown on helium, hydrogen, or any other lighter-than-air gas) and airships. The following information is taken in part from Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Air Regulations, Part 61 - Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors and Ground Instructors.
Student Pilot Requirements:
This is the starting point for every beginning pilot. Your flight instructor will direct you to the local FAA office to obtain a Student Pilot Certificate. If you currently hold a FAA airman's certificate to pilot any other type of aircraft, a new student certificate is not required.
Private Pilot Requirements:To become a private pilot, you must fulfill the following minimum requirements as a Student Pilot:
Commercial Pilot Requirements:To become a commercial pilot, you must fulfill the following minimum requirements as a private pilot:
Limitations & Authorizations
Student Pilots - may not carry passengers.
Private Pilots - may carry passengers but not for hire & may not fly in any commercial capacity.
Commercial Balloon Pilots - may operate for hire, provide flight instruction, and engage in commercial flights.
How long will it take to get a license?
The FAA requirements are only the minimum requirements. Most people are not ready for their "check ride" or practical test, with just the minimum amount of time. Our average student has around 22 hours and 10 to 14 months invested. There are many variables that will determine how long it will take before you are ready for a check ride. Some of them are:
The FAA specifies the topics that you must be trained in and we will cover them in detail. The flight training will consist of:
This listing only touches the surface of the subject matter that will be covered. The student will require about three, or more, times the amount of time spent with the instructor in independent study. You will be required to demonstrate your understanding of the topics thru routine oral examinations, quizzes, and the successful completion of the FAA written Knowledge Test with a score of 70 or above.
What is the CO$T?
Training costs are per hour with a minimum of one hour required per training session. "In our balloon" assumes the use of our aircraft, chase vehicle, fans, radios, fuel, and crew. We do not give you an hourly rate and then add each of these as an additional fee.
In Our Balloon In Your Balloon
Dual Flight Instruction $475.00 $175.00 Includes 1 hour of ground briefing/debriefing*
Solo Flight (Supervised) $475.00 $100.00
Unsupervised Solo $475.00 N/A
Ground Instruction $ 75.00 $ 75.00
Dual 6 Hours $2,850 $1,050
Solo 4 Hours $1,900 N/A
Ground Inst. (20 Hours) $1,500 $1,500
Written Examination $90 $90
Books & Materials $150 $150
Examiners Fee $350 $350
Minimum Costs $6,840.00 $3,140.00 For a Hot Air Balloon Private Pilot certificate
Training manuals, logbooks, sectional charts, and equipment are available to students at our cost, or they may be obtained commercially by the student, based on our recommendations. The dual price includes both a pre-flight briefing and post-flight critique of 30 minutes each. Additional time is charged at ground instruction rates. We utilize a Balloon Federation of America (BFA) approved flight training syllabus. These rates are subject to change without notice especially due to the possibility of a fuel surcharge to offset the high cost of fuel and its wildly fluctuating price.
Recommended Books and Study Materials
Cutting the Shirt Tail - A Time Honored Tradition - there are many traditions associated with flying and this is our favorite. As the story goes, in the good old days of early airplane training, the student sat in front of the instructor in tandem seat airplanes. There was no way to easily talk to the student; in order to get their attention and to keep them out of trouble, the instructor would tug on the shirt tail of the student. After sufficient training, the student was sent out for a "solo" flight; their first flight by themselves. Upon landing, the fledgling pilot's shirt tail was cut off by the instructor to signify that it was no longer needed - the student had demonstrated their skill and competence by returning safely to Mother Earth! The date and details of this momentous event were recorded on the piece of cloth and hung on a hangar wall for all to see! While this tradition originated in airplanes, we believe that it's worth keeping alive, even in balloons!
after his "First Solo" (first flight alone) Student Pilot Joe gets his shirt tail cut by
his instructor Mike!
Call to Schedule Your First Lesson
This page last revised January 2015