Airborne Heat Ballooning in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Beth's balloon, Orange Spice

Airborne Heat Ballooning

Elizabeth Wright-Smith

Airborne Heat Ballooning is one of the best Flight & Ground Schools in the country for balloon pilot training. In addition, Airborne Heat is a leader in Corporate Balloon Promotions for commercial accounts nationally, regionally and locally and is a dealer for Cameron Balloon US. Elizabeth Wright-Smith also serves as an FAA appointed Designated Pilot Examiner.

Pilot Training

To be a competent and safe pilot, you need to start with exceptional pilot training. You get that at Airborne Heat. Private, Commercial and Add-on instruction is available, as well as Biennial Flight Reviews or just brushing up on your piloting skills. Through our FAA-approved Part 141 School, you can be confident of leaving with the background and skills you need.
Learn more about our Pilot Training Program »

Designated Pilot Examiner Services

Once you have completed your hot air balloon pilot training, you will need the Practical Test, commonly called a checkride; the “final test” in order to obtain your Private, Commercial or Add-On pilot certification. The test has both oral questioning plus flying tasks. Based in Albuquerque, Elizabeth Wright-Smith is designated by the FAA to give pilot exams. All scheduling is individualized.

Learn more here, call 505-604-2865 or email us »

Corporate Balloon Promotions

A hot air balloon floating across the sky is an event that provides greater impact and a longer lasting impression than any other form of advertising. That is only true, however, if you start with the right company to handle the promotions. Airborne Heat’s 25+ years of experience provides that expertise. Whether you are looking at a one-time event or a nation-wide program, we have the knowledge to put together a custom promotion or program that fits your company's needs.
Learn more about Corporate Balloon Promotions »

Cameron Balloon Sales

Airborne Heat sells only Cameron Balloons, with good reason. Cameron is the best-selling brand of hot air balloons in the world. Whether you are interested in recreational ballooning, competition, advertising/promotional balloons, passenger ride balloons, or special shapes, Cameron knows more about building them than anyone in the industry. Airborne Heat’s pilots have flown many other makes of balloons, but have stayed with Cameron's for over 20 years.
Learn more about Cameron Balloon Sales »

~ Student Pilot Testimonials ~

student pilot trainingAfter deciding to pursue an add-on Balloon rating to my Commercial pilot license, I asked around the balloon community and all roads led to Albuquerque, New Mexico and Beth Wright-Smith at Airborne Heat. Beth provides excellent instruction on a 1-on-1 basis so as a student, you have her undivided attention. She provides all the study material you will need to obtain either your Private or Commercial Balloon rating and the equipment is maintained with very high standards. Beth employs very experienced crewmembers to assist with each flight and always provides a pleasant learning environment. After training hundreds of airplane pilots with over 2000 hours as a flight instructor and receiving training to obtain multiple pilot ratings, I can say that Beth Wright-Smith was one of the best instructors that I have had in my 28 years of flying. Flying with Airborne Heat was one of my top learning experiences.

Michael Heenan
Des Moines, Iowa

Airline Transport Pilot- Multiengine land - DC9, BE-1900, EMB-120, BE-300
Commercial Pilot- Single Engine Land and LTA Balloon
Flight Instructor- Single and Multiengine, Instrument


learning to fly balloonsAfter crewing for 10 years, when my wife and I made the decision to get a balloon and learn to fly, I asked many questions of friends in the ballooning community. Everyone said Beth Wright-Smith was the best. Ground school proved to be the easier part of training for me. Beth made the material fun to learn and made sure through repetition and knowledge checks that I retained the mountain of information.

When it came to flying the balloon, I found I had to overcome a lot of self-doubt. In the first few flights, I was convinced I had made the worst mistake of my life. I was fearful of hurting a passenger, hurting myself, or damaging my equipment. Beth was patient and molded her teaching style to help me overcome my doubts and begin to have fun flying the balloon. Safety is always at the forefront of flying with Beth, and she made sure I executed each flight within regulation parameters and with safety for us, the crew, spectators, and equipment always the top priority.

As I near the first year anniversary of getting my private pilot certification, on each flight I make, I still hear Beth loud and clear in my ear. The lessons I learned from her will stick with me for a lifetime of flying. From time to time, I can see me returning to Beth and Airborne Heat to pay for a tune-up flight and gain additional knowledge from her. Beth continues to be a mentor and sounding board for me.

Anyone who is serious about learning to fly and believes safety is paramount should seek out instruction from Beth Wright-Smith and Airborne Heat Ballooning. I highly recommend Beth and her team at Airborne Heat for quality flight training. Thank you Beth, you truly are the best!

Johnny R. Anthony
Rising Star Hot Air Balloon
Sandia Park, NM


Airborne Heat is a balloon school that provided us a solid, deep and wide base to stand on in our balloon flying. The base is founded by good, helping, caring and demanding instructors.

The practical and theoretical syllabus that Airborne Heat has is very well planned. The demands on us were stepped up during our development. Repeating learned knowledge was a "red string" in the training.

Airborne Heat is a thorough school and it is hard in a good way. When you earn your certificate from Airborne Heat, you have the basis for your future balloon flying. We are both glad that we chose Airborne Heat as our balloon school.

BTW- Airborne Heat’s chief pilot loves chocolate!

Lennart Kron and Riz Jiwa.
Commercial balloon pilots in Masai Mara, Kenya at Hot Air Safari Ltd.


hot air balloonAfter being a Commercial Pilot (Fixed Wing) for 20 years, having a CFII and MEI, being a FAR 121 major airline pilot instructor/check airman, and most recently acquiring my own Commercial Lighter-Than-Air Free Balloon Rating, it is safe to say I’ve experienced a wide variety of training styles, from extremely conservative to questionably radical.

I had the opportunity to witness excellent hot air balloon instruction while crewing for my wife, Traci, who was working on her Private Lighter-Than-Air Rating from Beth Wright-Smith. (No, I was not about to instruct my wife – I’d rather stay married!)

As Beth concisely described many different details of ballooning, I became acutely aware of how deficient my own training was. “That seems like an incredibly basic building block, I wonder why I never heard it before?” became an all too common thought for me as I watched Traci transform from a novice to a confident balloon pilot.

Upon further evaluation of the situation, it didn’t take long to figure out the dynamics of the different training scenarios – you won’t find a more experienced, or better teacher than Beth anywhere. The lady lives balloons! With an education in education and the vast amount of balloon experience, Beth makes for the ultimate professional combination in balloon flight training.

When it comes to flight training, it’s not worth saving a few bucks with an instructor who sells cars for a living. You’ll appreciate the experience, with your own self-confidence, after the positively professional presentation of Beth Wright-Smith. Trust me!

Captain Tom Morrey
Denver, Colorado


balloon pilot trainingI'll always remember my first flight in a hot air balloon, if for no other reason than about 2 minutes into it, Beth handed me the controls with a calm and collected "Your balloon". Calm and collected is far from what I felt that day. 5 weeks and a couple exams later, I left knowing that I had received the best ballooning education available and couldn't wait to get back and fly in my home town. Of course, at the end of 5 weeks, with my commercial certificate in hand, I had learned just enough to safely go out and build up experience, a process that has come with as many questions as learning to fly in the first place. Beth has been an invaluable resource, quickly responding to my late night questions about airspace, weather, regulations, or any other aspect of flying. There is a reason Beth's name is synonymous with balloon education: she is a vastly experienced pilot, an outstanding instructor, and an indefatigable story teller. I can't recommend her training highly enough.

Simran McKenna
Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot
San Francisco, CA


I have been a member of the National Ski Patrol's ski school for many years, teaching the best skiers in the world to ski more effectively. I am also a USA Waterski level III instructor, and have trained more than a handful of both National champions and top ranked competitors, including members of the National USA Waterski Barefoot Team and competitors in the Pan American games.

balloon pilot instructionSO, and that is a big SO, when I decided to become a Hot air balloon pilot and to pursue both my private and commercial hot air certificate, I looked at all of my options! My wife and I took vacation time to travel to Albuquerque NM, the center of the ballooning universe, to personally check out training options and check out schools. We met with Beth on short notice in the middle of what I would later come to understand, was a very hectic day. Beth Wright-Smith, not only made time to meet with us, but was cordial, informative AND very motivational. She never questioned my plan but instead provided great insight and guidance. It became very obvious, very quickly that Airborne Heat was my best option for training if I really wanted to become a competent, safe and well rounded balloon pilot. Beth made me very aware of the differences between flying in my home state of Wisconsin and New Mexico. (Side note: I transitioned to Wisconsin with no problem!) She provided me with every opportunity to not only train, but to fly with some of the most famous and highly regarded pilots in the country. A special thanks to instructor Randy Rogers for putting up with my landings.

Beth exceeded my greatest expectations both as a balloon pilot instructor, mentor, and ambassador of hot air ballooning. Beth helped my wife and me purchase Arriba Ire, our first but probably not last hot air balloon. If you want to become a part of the hot air balloon community, receive the best legitimate training for the buck and become a truly competent balloon pilot, Airborne Heat is the training facility for you! I am greatly honored to recommend Beth Wright-Smith, not only as a superlative trainer, but as a fantastic resource in your quest to become a competent member of the ballooning fraternity! Fantastic, fun, and very, very good at what she does, sums up Beth Wright-Smith.

Kerry Hanson
Commercial balloon pilot

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