You can get involved with a local pilot and a local balloon club like the Southern California Balloon Association or the Pacific Coast Aeronauts in Northern California. Many enthusiasts get their start as a member of a chase crew. If you live in Northern California or Sacramento’s Gold Country, e-mail us or call us to ask how you can become a member. You might earn free flight time and/or training as crew member!
Like cars and boats, new balloons vary in size and amenities. A new smaller sport model could cost around $18,000. These balloons typically carry the pilot and one passenger. Larger balloons that carry four to six persons in addition to the pilot will range in price between $20,000 and $55,000 (for envelope, gondola, tanks, and instruments). Used equipment is available. Big commercial balloons (10 to 15 passengers) and special shapes sell for market price making them quite costly.
The average hot air balloon (with a deflated envelope, a gondola or basket, 30-40 gallons of fuel in 2 tanks) weighs about 800 pounds. Special Shape and larger commercial balloons weigh thousands of pounds. Once inflated and in the air it will weigh about 2 1/2 tons!
Balloon pilots come from all walks of life. Anyone with the desire to learn to fly a balloon can become a pilot. Start by learning about balloons while working on a crew and/or taking lessons from a pilot instructor. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will issue a balloon pilot’s license after you have gained the required experience, passed a written test, and passed a flight test with a FAA examiner.
At least a crew of 3: 1 pilot and at 2 ground crew. Crews are very important to prepare for a launch, follow, and safely recover the balloon. Passengers often assist as crew. It’s all part of the fun.