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How to become a pilot

So, you are interested in becoming a balloon pilot? Set out below are the simple steps you will need to take to achieve your goal of learning to fly. Should you ultimately wish to pursue ballooning as a career I have detailed at the end of this circular the requirements for obtaining a Commercial Licence (Balloons) and the extra training required to pilot large passenger carrying balloons.

You will need to join the Australian Ballooning Federation Inc (ABF) as a Certificate Member. Our membership year runs from January to December with renewals due by 1st January each year. Any one joining after 30th April may take out a pro rata membership for the rest of the year.

You will also need to take out a Student Pilot Certificate which is a one off charge. This includes the issue of your SPC, a certificate wallet, ABF Operations Manual, Pilots Circulars, Safety Manual. A Pilot Training Manual is included which gives most of the theory information you will need to achieve the standard required along with various other associated documents.

Attached you will find an application form for membership and issue of an SPC, which is largely self-explanatory. A copy of the Membership Directory, which will give you an idea of the availability of Instructors in your area, will be included with your membership package. It is important before choosing an Instructor that you make sure that their rating is current as any training carried out with a non-current Instructor cannot be recognised in totalling your training hours for the issue of your Private Pilot Certificate.

You may also like to purchase a copy of ‘The Ballooning Manual’ by Bob & Carol Howe which, although an English book designed for UK users is nonetheless a valuable learning tool. This is available from the ABF.

To obtain a Private Pilot Certificate you will need to undergo a minimum of 16 hours training with an ABF authorised Instructor. Most people in fact take a little longer than this. Full details of the requirements may be found in the ABF Operations Manual which is included as part of your Student Pilot Certificate pack.

To obtain a Commercial Pilot Licence (Balloons) you must follow the path outlined below.

  1. Maintain your ABF membership as a Certificate Member
  2. Undertake training to Private Pilot Certificate standard - minimum of 16 hours
  3. Fly as PIC in a hot air balloon for a minimum of 75 hours after achieving your PPC.
  4. Undertake 8 hours training with a Commercial Instructor to obtain a Class 1 Commercial Licence (Balloons). This will allow you to fly commercially balloons up to and including 120000 cubic feet (Pilot and up to 4 passengers)
  5. You may apply for a Class 2 Licence (up to and including 180000 cubic feet) after you achieve 125 hours PIC, 40 hours in Charter Ops and 6 hours conversion training.
  6. Class 3 Licence (up to and including 260000 cubic feet) requires 175 hours PIC, 80 hours in Charter Ops and hold a Class 2 Licence plus 6 hours training or 10 hours if only a Class 1 
  7. Class 4 Licence (above 260000 cubic feet) requires 250 hours PIC, 150 hours in Charter Ops and 2 flights in class 4 balloons.

There is no established fee common to all Instructors. There are a number of ways you can undertake training. Some commercial balloon companies run residential courses whereas other instructors will often run specific courses subject to negotiation.

How to Join

Submit a Membership Application Form. The costs and conditions relating to each category of membership are available on the membership application form.

Payment for membership may be made by cheque or credit card. Please do not send cash.

If you want to ask any questions about joining the ABF, contact our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Applications for membership which are made after 30 April will attract a pro rata discount of 10% per month for each month of the calendar year that has passed.

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