Pilot Training

Private or Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot Training and Ground School

Flight & Ground School

Learn to fly a hot air balloon or brush up on your pilot skills at Airborne Heat Ballooning. Airborne Heat has one of only five FAA-certified Part 141 Flight & Ground Schools in the country. We have the most experienced instructors in the Southwest and a terrific reputation nation-wide as well as internationally. Chief Instructor Elizabeth Wright-Smith has trained over 400 students and has over 35 years of experience. Part 141 Schools are closely monitored by the FAA and have approved curriculums and procedures. Other instructors operating under Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations may not even have a curriculum.

What We Furnish

For flight instruction in the Albuquerque area, Airborne Heat will furnish a balloon, instructor, crew member, propane, vehicle, insurance and the cost of the designated examiner for the checkride (the final flying and knowledge test) at a special discounted price year-round.

Flight Training Information

Both flight and ground training are needed by most students to prepare for the required written and flight tests. Our schedules are flexible to accommodate yours. You can fly every flyable day until you complete the program, or you can spread out the training over a longer period of time. All flight instruction is one-on-one and includes pre- and post-flight discussions, as well as a practice checkride (oral and flying test). You will be more than pleased with the instruction you get here.

We can normally complete training in approximately 3-1/2 to 4 weeks for private certificate and 6 to 8 weeks for commercial certificate, weather permitting. With our staff of highly trained professional pilots, you can be assured of the best instruction in technical and safety skills. Please note that the program is very physical. You will be helping to move equipment weighing several hundred pounds, and you may be jarred during high-wind or imperfectly executed landings. Therefore, we ask that you have no physical problems that would prohibit you from participating in these activities.

Ground School Basics

Ground School consists of three stages, including reviews and a series of quizzes to prepare you for the FAA written exam, and to give you the fundamental background to be a safe pilot. If you already have a powered aircraft pilot certificate and just want to add the balloon rating, the FAA written test is not required. The rate for one-on-one ground school is $750 plus books and FAA test.

Private & Commercial Certification

To obtain a private certificate through our 141 School requires a minimum of 8 hours of flight training, although most student pilots take around 15-17 hours of flight training to become proficient. Starting with no experience, for a commercial rating through our school, it is a minimum of 18 total hours. Again, many students do not finish in the minimum required hours. See Balloon Pilot License Requirements below for more information on Student, Private and Commercial license specifics.

Pricing & Scheduling

Pricing information on our training programs is available upon request since it is specific to each individual’s aviation background. Costs range from a low of around $2900 for the minimum flight hours in student-provided equipment to over $7000 when ground school and more flight training are needed, with company equipment/personnel provided. We ask that you make reservations at least two weeks in advance, but there are often times of the year when we are extremely busy and may need as much as six month's notice.

For more information on our pilot training programs, please contact:

Beth Wright-Smith, Chief Flight Instructor

email: Click here to email Beth

phone: 505-604-2865

Pilot Training Photos

Why a 141 School? No, WHAT IS a 141 School?

To understand the benefits of attending a FAR (Federal Aviation Regulation) Part 141 Balloon Training School for your pilot flight or ground training, first you must know what it is.

FAR Part 141 provides for a pilot training school to be certified by the FAA as meeting more stringent standards than other instructors. For example, the chief flight instructor teaching students preparing for a private pilot certificate must have at least 400 hours of pilot-in-command time, must have at least two years and 200 hours of instructing experience and must take a checkride with an FAA inspector before becoming the chief instructor. The hour/experience requirements for teaching to a commercial certificate are even greater.

Statistics show that FAA-approved Part 141 Schools have a higher rate of successful completions than other instructors. They also have fewer students dropping out. Some organizations require that their pilots take training from a Part 141 School.

Any commercial balloon pilot can provide flight training to a student, but a 141 School has to meet specific criteria under the supervision of the FAA: the instructors have to have an annual checkride on instructing; the chief instructor has to take 16 hours of annual ground and/or flight training; the FAA has to approve the briefing areas & facilities, the aircraft used for training, and the training course outline. The FAA does periodic inspections to be sure these extra criteria have been met on an on-going basis.

When training at a 141 School, you can be confident that the instructors have the required training experience, and that the instruction you get is superior. Because of that, the hour requirements for pilot certification are less than through FAR Part 61. It is possible to get a private certificate in 8 hours instead of 10, and a commercial certificate in 10 hours instead of a total of 35 hours. (However, remember that even Part 61 lists the minimum required hours and does not mean an individual pilot is ready for a certificate in the minimum required number of hours.)

An additional advantage to training at a 141 School is that they usually have the equipment and personnel to devote to training so that you can finish in a shorter period of time than with most instructors. By training on a regular basis, you will also have the benefit of consistency - the more frequently you fly, the faster you will improve.

A 141 School is a good place to go for initial pilot training or to polish your skills and knowledge for a commercial rating. A 141 School can also give a thorough Flight Review (Biennal).

Does going to a 141 School guarantee good training? No, like repair stations, some are much better than others. Knowing the school's reputation, the experience level of the instructors or checking with the school's former students are good ways to ensure that you will be getting quality instruction. Here are a few of our students' testimonials.


Please call 505-604-2865 or email us for additional information about 141 pilot training.

Balloon Pilot License Requirements

The following information is extracted and simplified from 14 CFR (Federal Aviation Regulations) Part 61 - Certification: Pilots and Flight Instructors. First, a student pilot certificate must be obtained. Successful completion of training leads to private pilot certificate valid for sport and fun flying. After further training and experience, a commercial rating may be obtained, qualifying an individual to fly for hire or to instruct. The following are the general requirements for student, private and commercial certificates under part 61. Requirements under part 141 are somewhat different.

Part 61: Subpart C - STUDENT PILOTS

  1. A student must be at least 14 years of age.
  2. He must be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  3. No medical certificate is required.
  4. Student pilot certificates may be issued by FAA inspectors, CFIs or designated pilot examiners.
  5. Student pilots may solo after demonstrating to their instructor by passing a written exam that they are familiar with Part 91 and 61 of the 14 CFR (Federal Aviation Regulations), airspace where the solo will take place, balloon flight characteristics and limitations, and are proficient in balloon operations of pre-flight preparation, operation of controls, lift-off and climb, descent and landing and emergency situations, as well as other skills.
  6. A student pilot may not carry passengers or fly a balloon for hire..

Part 61: Subpart D - PRIVATE PILOTS

  1. To be eligible for a free balloon private pilot's certificate, a person must be at least 16 years of age.
  2. Read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  3. No medical certificate required.
  4. The applicant must pass a written test on such items as:
    • 14 CFR (Federal Aviation Regulations) covering pilot privileges, limitations & flight procedures
    • Use of navigation charts and airspace knowledge
    • Recognition of weather conditions and use of weather reports/forecasts
    • Operating procedures for hot air balloons
  5. The applicant must have received instruction on the following pilot operations:
    • Preflight preparation & procedures
    • Ground handling and inflation
    • Launch and ascents
    • Navigation
    • Airport operations
    • Maneuvering
    • Descents and landings
    • Emergencies
    • Post flight procedures
  6. Flight experience under Part 61 must include at least 10 hours in free balloons, which must include 6 flights under the supervision of an instructor. These flights must include at least the following:
    • 2 training flights of at least one hour long within 2 calendar months of the scheduled checkride
    • one ascent to 2,000 feet above takeoff point
    • one solo flight.

(These requirements are for hot air balloons; requirements for gas balloons are slightly different).

Part 61: Subpart E - COMMERCIAL PILOTS

  1. The age requirement for a commercial pilot certificate is 18 years.
  2. Read, speak, write and understand the English language.
  3. No medical certificate required.
  4. The applicant must pass a more advanced written test on the subject matter listed in 61.125, additional operating procedures relating to commercial operations, and those duties required of a flight instructor.
  5. Advanced training must be received from an authorized instructor covering those items listed in 61.127 (b)(8).
  6. The applicant for a commercial certificate must have at least 35 hours of flight time as a pilot, of which 20 hours must be in balloons (remaining 15 hours may be in other aircraft). Flight time must include 10 hours in free balloons, 10 flights under the supervision of an instructor, two solo flights, two flights of at least one hour duration, two training flights within 2 calendar months of the scheduled checkride and one flight to 3,000 feet above the take-off point.
  7. The holder of a commercial pilot's certificate may operate a balloon for hire and may give flight instruction.

Please call 505-604-2865 or email us for additional information.