The hot air balloon is the first successful human-carrying flight technology. However, flying a hot-air balloon as an adventurous air sport has become more and more popular and attracted many new beginners.
Basically, to be a hot air balloon pilot, you will take a training course and get a license. But the question here is what you should prepare and which tips to make sure the journey is smooth and worth investing in.
1. Do you need the motivation to start the journey?
The answer is yes, without any doubt. As ballooning is a quite challenging sport, its requirement for beginners is high. From the beginning, you always should ask yourself why you want to become a hot air balloon pilot and fly over the sky. If the answer is not clear, you should consider carefully whether to start the journey.
Photo: Pilot Izzati and Attiqah Khairudin from Malaysia
Here are some main benefits that hot air balloon pilot can have:
Discover the sky: not like a passenger, a pilot takes control of the balloon flight and enjoys the sky in a more active and appealing way. Imagine you can manage to lead the balloon to go up or down to get closer to the cloud (if the weather allows) and choose a perfect location to land when you are ready.
Travel the world: There are many hot air balloon festivals happening all around the world annually that a pilot could attend. You could either get an invitation or apply to join those events. Usually, all pilots will be offered free accommodation and meals, a support team, and other benefits. Discover a new area with your balloon and spend some rest days traveling around will be an ideal plan.
Start a new hobby: Another common reason you can take into your consideration is that ballooning can be one of your hobbies. It will train you into a morning person to enjoy the beautiful sunrise and actually “live in the sky”.
However, whatever your motivation is, the journey to becoming a pilot has never been easy and cheap.
2. Places to take a hot air balloon course
You will have to choose whether to take a private license or a commercial one. To get this, you must complete the training required based on the country you take the balloon flight and pass the test. The training consists of a theoretical and practical training course to achieve all the necessary knowledge about the hot air balloon.
Firstly there is a theoretical course, where the student learns about the terms of air legislation. There is also theoretical training about the different parts of the hot air balloon, as a study of the meteorological agents and the internal and external agents of the pilot, as many other things.
The practical training consists of a number of hours of flying: with an instructor, inflations of the balloon, take-offs, and landings. The formation also includes a solo flight supervised by an instructor.
Here you can find your nearest places to take a course and obtain a license. Let's check it out!
If you stay in Turkey, the kingdom of hot air balloons, it will be easy to take a course from HAN SOLO Flight Academy in Cappadocia.
The school will have you covered whether it is a private or commercial certificate that you want to obtain.
In Spain, you can find Camins de Vent school as a good option. Camins de Vent is since 6th August 2019 a DTO (Declared Training Organisation) by the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea (AESA). The approved DTO allows Camins de Vent to train pilots to obtain the hot air balloon pilot license as the regulation Part-BFCL dictates. This license allows flying as a private pilot in festivals and competitions or as a commercial pilot flying passengers as a profession.
If you are thinking to get your license in any other country in Europe, DTO organizations are listed on the CAA website.
In the US, you will have a wide range of school options to consider, so the best strategy would be to get in contact with your closest ride balloon operator as they will be the best adviser.
The pilot license can be easily converted between Europe and America when needed.
3. Preparations for the journey to be a hot air balloon pilot
First of all, you should equip yourself with basic knowledge about ballooning. An easy way to do it is to take many balloon rides as you can. While being a passenger enjoys the flight, you also have the chance to observe the pilot, get used to the feeling of flying, and be familiar with a balloon. Besides, joining a balloon festival during your traveling time is also recommended. Last but not least, you should take advantage of the Internet to learn about ballooning from Facebook groups, websites, or blogs.
It requires physical strength to be a good balloon pilot. Imagine you will handle a giant balloon flying over the sky on your own, you will have to be strong enough to control the balloon and equipment. And in emergencies, a quick reaction is strictly necessary to ensure safety.
And of course, financial preparation will be one of the key factors to start your journey. Saving for your pilot course so you can focus on the training without much pressure.
In conclusion, with +10 years of experience, I - still enjoy ballooning and I will be happy to support others. As long as you are passionate enough, training to be a pilot will be a good investment of your effort and money.