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So you want to be a hot air balloon pilot?

07/11/2013 Jo Bailey Hot Air Balloons in the UK

If you have recently taken a hot air balloon ride and it has made you think about a career as a hot air balloon pilot – or maybe it has always been your dream to do so – then you will need to know just what it takes to become a successful hot air balloon pilot.

Manning hot air balloons can be an exciting and fulfilling career, but it can be difficult and challenging too. This means that a lot of training is needed before you can embark on your career as a hot air balloon pilot. You will also need the right kind of personality and resilience, if you are to be a success in the air.

Character traits

Before even thinking about embarking on a career as a hot air balloon pilot, you should think about your personality. If you are someone who is meek, indecisive and not known for your commitment, you may want to think again.

Hot air balloon pilots need to be extremely committed, determined and passionate about the pursuit if they are to pass training and have a successful career.


In order to take control of a hot air balloon, you will first need to train for and acquire a pilot licence. There are two different licences available.

If you are looking to simply fly a hot air balloon without making a profit from doing so, you can apply for a PPL, which is a private licence. However, if you are looking to join a business using your newly learned skill, you will need a CPL, which is a commercial pilot’s licence.


As a pilot in training, the first thing you will need to do is participate in a flight, solely as a passenger. This will allow you to gauge your levels of enjoyment and comfort in the balloon before you proceed. All being well, you will then need to join the British Balloon and Airship Club and have your fitness tested and declared by your GP.

If you are fit to fly, you can then begin training. You will need to undertake a minimum of 16 flying hours, which should be spread over at least six flights. You will also need to study the theoretical side of hot air ballooning and ideally attend a Landowner Relations course, which will be invaluable when the time comes for you to launch your own balloon flights.


In order to qualify as a hot air balloon pilot, you will need to undertake a solo flight, supervised by an official examiner. You will also need to sit a written exam, which covers everything from Aviation Law and Meteorology to Navigation and Balloon Systems.

If you want to be a commercial pilot, you will need to complete an additional 35 hours in flight, spread over 10 flights. Two of these flights must be solo operations and you must perform one solo ascent to a height of 3,000 feet.

Finally, you will need to take a practical and written exam, which is administered by the Civil Aviation Authority, before you are free to take paid passengers on-board.

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