$45,000 to $60,000+ (Commercial)
Buying a hot air balloon and becoming a hot air balloon pilot will put you in rare company. There are only about 4,000 hot air balloonists in the United States. Hot air ballooning is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and all pilots and balloons must meet their regulatory standards. New balloons are expensive (think luxury car prices) and must pass annual and 100-hour inspections. In addition to the balloon, pilots must invest in additional equipment, ground crews, and insurance.
Still interested? Start by getting your pilot’s license.
Getting Your Pilot’s License
There are two kinds of pilots’ licenses available: private and commercial. A private license allows you to fly solo in a balloon, a commercial license allows you to take people on rides in a balloon (all commercial pilots must hold a private pilot’s license). The requirements for each license are outlined by the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 141. Training for a private license requires at least ten hours of flight instruction combined with additional hours of ground training and a written test. A commercial license requires more experience- pilots must have at least thirty-five hours of flight time with additional ground experience and must pass a much more stringent written test.
There are a number of FAA-approved flight schools that offer training courses for a private or commercial license. Schools will help you log hours of ground and flight training and some offer additional study materials to help you pass the written test. At a minimum the schools’ training programs must meet the FAR’s requirements, many offer more extensive programs that include more training time. Rates for pilot training vary depending on the license you want and whether or not you will use your own balloon or the school’s during your training (cheaper rates apply if you use your own).
The costs for training for a private license can range from $1,200 to $2,750, a commercial license can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3500.
So, how much will buying your own balloon set you back?