Hot air balloon pilot

You climb into the basket and open the metal canister above you: out pours propane gas, fast, filling the balloon, allowing it to take its customary shape. Then, slowly and methodically, the sand bags are released and the necessary safety measures adhered to, and within a minute the ground crew are reduced to the size of ants; the green landscape a patch-work of greens and yellows sown together by forests, motorways and what can only be buildings…

Few flight-based occupations rank more interesting or appear more dangerous than that of steering a hot air balloon across lands and continents, yet despite many people’s misgivings about the safety of such air-born transport – and a number of preconceptions which are utterly unfounded – largely speaking, the hot air balloon is one of the safest. In fact, statistics suggest that accidents in ballooning are only as common as with most chartered flights operated by big name commercial flying companies.
Quite simply, hot air balloons work on the principal that hot air rises, becoming less dense than the air outside of the heated chamber, allowing the balloon to move at speed through the atmosphere, carrying a significant load beneath it. And there is a lot to be said for becoming a pilot of such a vehicle in this modern age: with a job such as this – one that surely demands attention at all times – you’ll never feel locked into the rat race, and there will always be a significant amount of things to keep you busy as you go about taking amateurs up and away.
Of course, owing to many factors, the job isn’t for everyone, but it is safer and less difficult than many imagine. For example, a hot air balloon can’t be popped by a bird attacking it with its beak, and owing to a number of technicalities which it has on its side, a balloon can’t simply go ‘pop’ and drop out of the sky.
How long does it take to train? That all depends on the person, but most schools give between three months and a year as a rough estimate (the eventual time depending on the student’s experience and obviously their natural ability to pick up and improve upon the basics). Training is usually done on a one-to-one basis, with several flights per day, for two or three hours at a time.
In terms of where you’d like to train, that’s entirely up to you; many ballooning schools exist all over the world, one of the most famous and well known being the Cameron Italia ballooning school, active in Cueno province, north-west Italy, since 1983 (this school has taught many students, not only from Italy but all over the world: the simple reason being that the weather conditions in this region are perfectly suited to frequent hot air balloon flying).
While many dream of flying hot air balloons for a living, few actually decide to go on to become accredited pilots. The reason for this is simple: ballooning once or twice is easy, but ballooning day in day out is something that will test the patience and nerves of even the most experienced balloonists, as they battle with the constant technical issues of flying the balloon while explaining these hard-earned lessons to the amateur alongside them.
In terms of certificates, everyone who wants to become a hot air balloon pilot must obtain a worthy knowledge of Air Law. The BBAC also strongly recommends taking out relevant insurance, although other than this the laws regarding mandatory certificates and qualifications (other than passing the exam to become an instructor, of course) are surprisingly lax.


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