How to become a Hot Air Balloon Pilot

The South African School of Ballooning offered by Life Ballooning is the only accredited school in South Africa that provides pilot training for hot air balloons. Learning to pilot a balloon is much like learning to pilot a plane with the only difference being the study of aerostatics rather than aerodynamics. The regulations are less for balloon pilot licences and the course currently operates with 16 hours of hands-on training.

After qualifying, pilots obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence (Balloons) from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) which allows the pilot to command a balloon alone. This licence is limited only to commanding balloons and does not include winged craft. Having a Private Pilot’s Licence for balloons means that you are able to fly from any reasonably open space, but need to be aware of and take into account the rules governing controlled airspace and built up areas.

A person in possession of a Private Pilot Licence can only conduct leisure flying. This means that flights can only be for personal leisure purposes and not for commercial gain. There are many clubs throughout South Africa for balloon enthusiasts and people with Private Pilot licences where they can participate in competitions and events. The Balloon and Airship Federation of South Africa (BAFSA) hosts an annual competition for private pilots. They are the controlling body for the administration of recreational and sport ballooning and are a section of the Aero Club of South Africa and therefore also affiliated with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and are an Approved Recreational Organisation registered with the SACAA.

Although there is currently no Commercial Pilot’s Licence for hot air balloons available in South Africa, a commercial operating certificate can be obtained from the SACAA which will allow you to command hot air balloon flights for remuneration.
Commercial Ballooning in South Africa is controlled by the South African Civil Aviation Authority. All balloons certified to operate commercial flights are subject to regular checks on airworthiness by SACAA authorised personnel and have to comply with all Civil Aviation regulations.
In order to operate as a commercial ballooning company in South Africa you need to be registered as a non-scheduled airline and have a valid licence and operating certificate issued by the SACAA.

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