Become a hot air balloon pilot

There is something magical about hot air balloons, its simple physics yet it seems strangely daunting to float in the air by nothing more than a bag of hot air. You feel detached from the world as you silently drift through the sky in your basket taking in the serene beauty of the landscape beneath you.

For many people the opportunity to earn a living from piloting a hot air balloon would be a dream come true. Yet each year sees a number of new recruits pass their exams and take to the skies as commercial hot air balloon pilots. So if you decide you would like to join them where do you begin?


become a hot air balloon pilot

Well, assuming you’ve had a test flight and you enjoyed it enough to consider making it into a career, the first step would be to enrol on a course. Most trainees will take between 3 and 12 months to get their pilots licence – the time being largely dependent on having suitable weather for flying. In the UK, pilots are awarded their licence by Civil Aviation Authority. There are two types of licence you can apply for, a commercial licence and a private licence. A private licence allows you to take passengers up, but you cannot charge them. Only a commercial pilot’s licence can allow you charge passengers. The private licence course requires that you are given a minimum of 16 hours flying instruction before you are tested by an appointed examiner. In addition to practical experience you will also be required to pass five written examinations. Subjects covered include air law, navigation, meteorology, balloon systems and human performance. In order to apply for your commercial licence you will need to take a further 19 hours of flying instruction.

Once you have passed your exams you will have reached a standard to competently fly either solo or with passengers. Your first solo flight is an exhilarating experience and will not be forgotten.

There are a number of ways to earn a living as a hot air balloon pilot. You may decide to work for one of the many balloon-for-hire companies that charge passengers for leisure flights or even start your own business. You could also find work flying advertising balloons or taking aerial photos. However most people who get their licence purely do it so they can fly at their own leisure, crossing over into the commercial arena brings with it added complications and responsibilities. Dealing with customers demands on a daily basis may take away many of the reasons you decided to choose this as a career in the first place.

Ballooning is also sport equally accessible to both women and men; concentration, spatial awareness and flying skills are far more important than ‘brute strength’. Although a strong pair of hands is always helpful when it comes to packing up at the end of the day. So if you’re looking for a good job that takes you to new heights perhaps you should consider life aboard a hot air balloon.

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