Becoming a Pilot 101

Balloons, like any other aircraft, are licensed and registered with Transport Canada. Balloon Pilots all hold a special pilots’ license that allows them to fly balloons in Canada.

The following requirements refer to a Canadian citizen, at least 16 years of age, who does not hold
another aviation licence. (If you are not a Canadian citizen, or hold another aviation licence, please
contact the Chief Instructor of the Calgary Balloon Club named at the end of this article.)

  1. Medical: You must pass a medical exam by a physician recognized by Transport Canada.
    We recommend you complete the medical prior to starting your training. A list of medical
    examiners is available, or we can recommend one.
  2. You must be trained by a licensed balloon pilot with an instructor rating. We have a list of
    instructors and will do our best to match you with one based on your and the instructor’s
  3. You require at least 10 hours of ground school training which includes:
        • Canadian Air Regulations (CARS)
        • Meteorology (Weather)
        • Propane Handling
        • Aircraft Radio Operation
  4. Once your ground school training is done, you must obtain a letter from your instructor stating
    that you have successfully completed the training and that they recommend you be allowed
    to write your first written exam. This exam (PSTAR), focuses on air law and regulations, but
    does not specifically pertain to hot air balloons. You must pass the PSTAR exam before you can
    fly solo.
  5. Before obtaining your licence you will need a minimum of 16 hours of flight training which
    includes at least 11 hours of untethered flight. The untethered flight training must include at
    least 6 dual instruction flights, including one ascent to over 5000 feet and 2 solo flights of at
    least 30 minutes each.
  6. In order to fly solo (with no other people aboard) you must obtain a Student Pilot Permit (SPP)
    from a Transport Canada Authorized Person. Your Instructor will help you with this. You will
    need the original documents and 3 copies of each of:

        • Identification showing your nationality, age and full name.
        • Proof you have satisfied the medical criteria: either your Licence Validation Certificate or a Medical Assessment Letter.
        • A copy of your results of the PSTAR exam, showing a passing grade.
        • A letter of recommendation from your instructor stating that you have completed the requirements, have demonstrated sufficient competence in the operation of a hot air balloon and that you should be allowed to fly solo.
  7. After receiving a passing grade on your PSTAR exam, and after completing at least 12 hours of your flight training (75% of the 16 required hours), you can obtain a letter from your instructor recommending that you be allowed to try your second written exam. This exam (PIBAL) may cover any aspect of ballooning, from regulations to the relevant laws of physics.
  8. After you have satisfied all of the requirements your instructor must certify in your log book that the flights and times entered therein are accurate. Your instructor must also provide you with a letter stating that you are competent to fly a hot air balloon and recommend that you receive your licence. You must then return to Transport Canada or the Transport Canada Authorized Person with the originals and 3 copies of:
        • Your Student Pilot Permit.
        • A current Licence Validation Certificate.
        • Your certified log book showing you have satisfied the requirements of the licence.
        • Your letter of recommendation from your instructor.
  9. You will then be required to fill out an application form for a licence and pay a fee. The Transport Canada Authorized Person will complete the back of your Student Pilot Permit, which then becomes your temporary balloon licence for a specified time or until Transport Canada issues you the actual licence.

Obtaining a balloon pilots’ license can take some time to complete due to availability of all involved as well as weather restrictions but once you have your license its well worth the effort!

Being a member of the Calgary Balloon Club gives you favourable balloon rental and instruction
rates. To answer any questions you may have regarding licensing or costs please contact:

Del Michaud, Calgary Balloon Club Chief Instructor