How to become a Pilot

The Canadian Balloon Pilot Licence

You want to become a Hot Air Balloon Pilot and you’d like to know how to go about it.

The most obvious part of obtaining a Balloon Pilot Licence is learning how to operate a balloon safely, and you have to know all the rules and regulations that govern flying in Canada. No less important than all this, you have to know the procedure involved in reaching your goal of becoming a Licensed Balloon Pilot.

Canadian Licensing Procedure
In order to supply you with the most information possible, we’ll describe the usual procedure for a Canadian citizen, at least sixteen years of age, who does not hold another aviation licence. This procedure is based on the present requirements contained in the relevant chapters of the Personnel Licensing Handbook and discussion with some of the people at Transport Canada. It is meant as a reference only and you should always refer to the aforementioned Personnel Licensing Handbook for current requirements. If you have any questions concerning licensing, we encourage you to contact Transport Canada. They would rather answer a few questions at the start than try to sort out problems after the fact.

We’ll describe the procedure as simply as possible, as a series of steps. There may be circumstances where some of these steps may be done in a different order or they may be combined.

Remember, research the Requirements for your particular circumstances

1. You must find a Licensed Balloon Pilot with an Instructor Rating. If you already have the names of some balloon pilots in your area ask them if they have a valid instructor’s rating. Transport Canada can confirm this. You don’t have to do all of your flight training with one instructor, however you will have to demonstrate to one of them that you have received adequate training, are competent to fly a balloon, and satisfy the requirements for a license.

2. Medical. Most people obtain the name of a physician recognized by Transport Canada and have their medical exam prior to beginning their flight training. Although you don’t have to present evidence of passing the medical until you are actually ready to fly solo, you are strongly advised to complete this aspect as soon as possible. There’s no sense in getting that far into your training only to be disqualified for medical reasons. A list of medical examiners can be found on the Civil Aviation website.

3. You need at least ten hours of ground school training. This will cover all the information that Transport Canada feels you must know, as outlined in their study guide. Your instructor should be able to either provide the ground school training or tell you where it can be obtained.

4. Any time after 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 try your first written exam. This exam (PSTAR) focuses on air law and regulations, but it does not specifically pertain to Hot Air Balloons. You must pass the PSTAR exam before you can fly solo. More information can be found on the Transport Canada website.

5. Before obtaining your license you will need a minimum of 16 (sixteen) hours of flight training which includes at least 11 (eleven) hours of untethered flight under the direction and supervision of a qualified instructor. The untethered flight training must include at least 6 (six) dual instruction flights, including one ascent to over 5000 feet, and 2 (two) solo flights of at least 30 minutes each. ALWAYS VERIFY THE CURRENT REQUIREMENTS SET OUT IN THE PERSONNEL LICENSING HANDBOOK.

6. In order to fly solo (with no other people aboard) you must obtain a Student Pilot Permit (SPP). In order to obtain your SPP you have to either deal directly with Transport Canada or with someone in the ballooning community authorized by Transport Canada to act on their behalf. You can make the process easier and faster by bringing the original documents and 3 (three) copies of each. The authorized person must see the originals, will keep one copy of each document and send two certified copies to Transport Canada. You must show this Transport Authorized Person:

Acceptable identification which shows your nationality, age and full name. Nationality and age information show that you are entitled to be licensed in Canada and for how long your medical is valid. Your name is required for the issuing of the license, which is a legal document. If your name has changed you will have to provide evidence of such. (A married woman who has changed her name will be asked to provide a marriage certificate.)
Proof that you have satisfied the medical criteria. This is either your License Validation Certificate or a Medical Assessment Letter.
A copy of your results of the PSTAR exam, showing a passing grade.
A recommendation from a qualified balloon 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. At any time after receiving a passing grade on your PSTAR exam, and after having completed at least 12 (twelve) hours of your flight training (75% of the flight time requirements), you should 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. Any time 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. They must also provide you with a letter stating that you are competent to fly a Hot Air Balloon and recommend that you receive your license. You will then return to Transport Canada or the Transport Authorized Person and show them:

Your Student Pilot Permit
A current License Validation Certificate
Proof of obtaining a passing grade on the PSTAR and PIBAL exams
Your certified log book showing that you have satisfied the requirements in the Personnel Licensing Handbook
Your letter of recommendation from a qualified instructor. Once again, it is easier and faster to bring the originals and 3 (three) copies of each document.
9. You then fill out an application form for a license, in duplicate, and pay a licensing fee. You can either send the form to Transport Canada, or once the paperwork has been completed, the Transport Authorized Person will complete the back of your Student Pilot Permit which then becomes your temporary Balloon License for a specified time, or until Transport Canada issues you the actual license.

And then you are, a Licensed Balloon Pilot.

There are exceptions to these steps. For instance, if you already hold a valid pilot license for another category of aircraft, with the exception of ultra lights, you may require fewer hours of ground school, and you need not write the PSTAR exam.

If you have any questions concerning the procedures for obtaining a Balloon Pilot’s License, drop contact us (put link for the email address for general inquiries in here) or you can get in touch with Transport Canada. They can be very helpful people.