This is our favorite question! Often people ask us “Do you need a license to fly a balloon?” at about 2,000ft. If you want to see if your pilot can keep a straight face just ask him that after takeoff! Our pilots are FAA commercially licensed. There is a class of hot air balloons that can be categorized as Ultralights. These balloons need to weigh under 255 total pounds. If operating a balloon as a “sport pilot” or as an ultralight it is illegal to carry passengers for hire.
All pilots that operate hot air balloons outside of the Ultralight category are required to hold a FAA issued pilots license. The license is “type certified”. What that means is that balloon pilots have to take all of the same tests and to hold to the same standards as any other pilot in general aviation. The operation of specific aircraft types of aircraft requires “type certification training”. In other words Balloon pilots do not have to learn to fly jets and jet pilots do not have to learn to fly balloons. Generally pilots licenses come in two forms, Private and Commercial. Any pilot that charges for rides or services must be commercially licensed and carry insurance applicable to the type of operation.
All pilots must also go through regular flight reviews with FAA type certified examiners.