Hot Air Balloon Flight Training

Canadian Balloon Pilot License

The first thing to do is to book a flight – or even better – volunteer as ground crew for an existing balloon team to get the feel for what is involved – many times, you’ll be able to hop in the basket after you’ve crewed with a pilot for a few times.

Alain Bard is a Transport Canada rated Balloon Flight Instructor – and can provide you with almost everything required to obtain a Canadian Hot Air Balloon Pilot License.

Our flight training center is located in the eastern Ontario peninsula between the St-Laurence and Ottawa Rivers, about 45 minutes east of the city of Ottawa. This flight area is one of the best places in Canada to do flight training due to its perfectly flat geography, very large areas, very few power lines and a launch location that permits flying in any wind direction (360 degrees).

Due to the busy flying schedule during the busy summer season, most training is done during Fall from September to March.

Requirements

You must be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.

Age

You must be at least sixteen years of age.

To obtain your Canadian Balloon Pilot License, you will need to complete the following:

Medical Fitness

1. Aviation Medical. We recommend you obtain your Category 3 medical exam prior to beginning their flight training, although the medical is not required until you are ready to fly solo.
Knowledge

2. Ten (10) hours of ground school training with your instructor.
Any time after your ground school training has been completed you must obtain a letter from your instructor stating that you have successfully completed the training and he/she recommend you be allowed to try your first written exam.

3. Successful completion of the Transport Canada PSTAR Examination.

This exam (PSTAR) focuses on air law and regulations, but it does not specifically pertain to Hot Air Balloons. You must pass the PSTAR exam before you can fly solo.

Experience

4. Minimum of 16 (sixteen) hours of practical in-flight training (includes solo time) within a 24 month timeframe.
You will need a minimum of 16 (sixteen) hours of flight training which includes at least 11 (eleven) hours of untethered (ie. Free flight) under under the direction and supervision of the holder of a Flight Instructor Rating – balloon.

The untethered flight time has to include a minimum of:

• 6 flights with an instructor of least 30 minutes each
o Including 1 flight with an ascent to an altitude of a minimum of 5,000 feet above ground level; and
• 2 solo flights of a minimum of 30 minutes each

The 16 hours of flight time is an absolute minimum, and it is not uncommon for students to require 20 – 25 hours of flight training until you are ready to fly solo.

Solo

5. To fly solo (with no other people aboard) you must obtain a Transport Canada Student Pilot Permit (SPP).
To obtain your SPP, you must bring the following to a Transport Canada authorized person:

  • Acceptable identification which shows your nationality, age and full name;
  • Evidence of your Class 3 Medical
  • A copy of your results of the PSTAR exam, showing a passing grade
  • A letter of recommendation from your Flight Instructor stating that you have completed the requirements, have demonstrated sufficient competence in the operation of a Hot Air Balloon and that you should be allowed to fly solo.

Exam

6. Successful completion of the Transport Canada PIBAL Examination

At any time after receiving a passing grade on your PSTAR exam and after having completed at least 12 (twelve) hours of your flight training (75% of the flight time requirements), you need to obtain a letter from your instructor recommending that you be allowed to write the PIBAL exam. This examination is written at a Transport Canada office.

Paperwork

7. Certification of Times and Letter of Competency

Any time after you have satisfied all the requirements, your instructor will certify in your Pilot logbook that the flights and times are accurate. They will also provide you with a letter stating that you are competent to fly a Hot Air Balloon and recommend that you receive your license.
You must then show a Transport Canada Authorized Person

  • Your Student Pilot Permit;
  • A current License Validation Certificate;
  • Proof of obtaining a passing grade on the PSTAR and PIBAL exams;
  • Your certified log book showing that you have satisfied the requirements in the Personnel Licensing Handbook;
  • Your letter of recommendation from your instructor.

8. Application for License

You must then fill out an application form for a license, and pay the licensing fee.
Once the paperwork has been completed, a Transport Authorized Person must complete the back of your Student Pilot Permit which then becomes your temporary Balloon License for a specified period of time, or until Transport Canada issues you the actual license.

You are now a Licensed Balloon Pilot!

Note: There are exceptions to these steps if, for instance, if you already hold a valid pilot license for another category of aircraft.

Cost

The cost for your training will vary on the time of year and location. Total cost for your training can range between $6,500 to $10,000. Generally, you should budget $350 to $500 per hour of flight which includes:

  • Balloon System Rental
  • Chase Vehicle
  • Fuel
  • Insurance
  • Chase Crew
  • Instructor

Another option is to purchase your own balloon. The advantage of having your own balloon is that after your obtain your license, you can build-up hours to reach the 100 hour mark where most insurers will then accept to insure you commercially (to fly fare-paying passengers) and where most balloon festivals will accept you to come fly at their festival.

We can train you on your own balloon. We recommend the following size: 77,000 cu ft to 90,000 cu ft (Pilot +2 or 3). If you own your own balloon – flight instruction would cost $175/hour.