Columbus Aeronauts

Become a Pilot / Crew Member

columbus aeronauts

Flight Training

Balloon pilots come from all walks of life. Anyone with the desire to learn to fly a balloon can become a pilot. Start by learning about balloons while working on a crew and/or taking lessons from a pilot instructor. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will issue a balloon pilot’s license after you have gained the required experience, passed a written test, and passed a flight test with a FAA examiner.

The outright cost to get you to your private certificate is $2400. Quite often we can either partially or totally fold the cost of training into the purchase price of a balloon, or adjust the cost by how much time you can spend with the retrieve crew. It is my preference to have a student spend about a year in training and a considerable amount of time on the retrieve team to learn exactly what the team on the ground goes through. It is also a time to learn why the instructor pilot makes certain "go" and "no go" decisions.

balloon flight training

We suggest coming out to observe a flight or to participate, as a student/passenger would be appropriate. No reason to commit to the full training package until you see if balloons are in reality what you perceive them to be.



You can begin training to become a pilot and logging instruction hours without your student certificate, but you will need it before your first solo flight. There's no harm in getting it sooner than that, as it's easy and cheap. Student certificates issued after April 1st, 2016 no longer expire either, so you'll only need to do it once. As a balloonist, you do not require a medical examination before getting your certificate, you can simply state that you are in fitting health to fly. You must be 14 years of age, and be able to read and write English. If you're visiting a FSDO in person, you'll also need government issued identification, such as a license or a passport. You do not need permission or any documents from an instructor. Here are the easiest ways to acquire your certificate:

  • In person: If you're near a major city that has a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO -- in other words, a local FAA branch) you can fill out form 8710-1 in person. Certificates are now mailed to you after identity verification. You shouldn't have to pay. You can find the closest FSDO here.
  • Online via IACRA: The FAA has an online system for all certifications called the Integrated Airmen Certification and Rating Application. You will likely use this site again when you take your check-ride. You can submit your application for your student certificate here and you should receive it in the mail within approximately three weeks. You will need an instructor or flight examiner to login and approve your application.

Your student certificate is a rite of passage, and a big milestone in your journey to becoming a pilot. If you have any other questions about getting yours, feel free to get in touch anytime.

becoming a balloon pilot


Order your Pilot Log book through


Once you know for sure that you want to become a Hot Air Balloon / Lighter than Air Pilot. You can get started with your reading and studying by ordering the following books. Click on the photo link:


Private Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Test Prep

Rely on the time-proven and dependable ASA Private Pilot Test Prep to prepare for your Private, Sport or Recreational Pilot FAA Knowledge Exam. Test material is expertly organized into chapters based on subject matter and includes introductory text and illustrations, questions, answer choices, explanations (for correct and incorrect answers), answers, and references for further study. This topical study promotes understanding and aids recall to provide an efficient study guide. When you’re done studying, take 5 FREE practice tests and receive your test authorization (endorsement) with ASA’s online simulated testing program at no additional cost!

The ASA Test Prep includes the Computer Testing Supplement (CT-8080-2G)—with the same FAA legends, figures, and full-color charts you’ll be issued at the testing center—to help you become familiar with all available information before you take your official test. You can count on ASA to keep up with changes in the FAA Knowledge Exams with free updates available both online and through an email Update subscription service. ASA’s Private Pilot Test Prep is the pilot’s best resource for successful test-taking.

The leading resource for FAA Knowledge Exam preparation for over 55 years. ASA continues to produce the best books available to prepare students for all the exams:

FAA Computer Testing Supplement is bundled with every test book so you will become accustomed to referring to the FAA Figures and Legends as you will during the test. This is the same book you will be issued at the testing center.

  • The FAA tests are on a one-year cycle, with changes made up to 3 times a year. We make sure you have the most current information by publishing the books in July of each year, and posting updates on the ASA website that show changes made to the test questions.
  • ASA's Test Preps contain the FAA questions and answer stems — plus answers, explanations (for both correct and incorrect answers), references, and FAA subject codes. Chapter text and illustrations help you more fully understand the concepts.
  • The questions are arranged into chapters based on subject matter to promote better understanding, aid recall, and thus provide a more efficient study guide.

ASA test books include all the questions: airplane, rotorcraft, glider, and lighter-than-air categories are all included, and the questions are identified as to which test they apply

balloon flight instructor


Balloon Federation of America

I would also suggest you become a member of the Balloon Federation of America. Take a look through their website. There's lots of great information about the everything there is to do about the hot air balloon industry.





Hot Air Balloon Written Practice Exams

student balloonist

click balloon to begin testing your aviation knowledge