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"Five Types of Balloon Pilots"


The sport  and pleasure pilot is the most common type of balloon pilot.  This is someone who is involved with ballooning as a hobby and treat it more like a social activity to share with family and friends, and are typically more of what is considered a fair weather flyer.  These are the pilots that make up the majority of the balloon festivals across the country.  Work and other obligations usually limit his or her flying time to the weekends often earning them the title  'weekend warrior'.



The competition pilot generally flies more often, with their focus on honing their skills for competitions across the region, country, or even the world.  There are many different types of balloon competitions or 'races', however a balloon race is seldom based on speed, it is based on accuracy.  During competitions the pilots typically must maneuver their craft in the varying conditions and winds to a specific target or series of targets.  Though there is some fairly substantial money that can be made as a completion pilot, it comes at a great cost and being a competition pilot almost always requires additional sources of income.



The ride operator is just as it sounds.  A pilot that sells rides and flies for hire.  A balloon ride can usually be purchased in just about any area of the country, but the options are usually much greater in areas that have a large tourist base or consistent weather patterns, so as can be expected, most ride operators are located in those areas, and this type of pilot is where you will find the majority of your career balloonists.  There are other ride operators all throughout the country that operate on a smaller scale using ballooning as a way to both have fun and supplement their income.



The corporate pilot flies a balloon with a corporate logo, advertising for the company and acting as an ambassador for their product.  A balloon makes a great flying billboard and many companies take advantage of this as part of their advertising campaigns.  The corporate pilot usually spends the majority of his or her time on the road traveling from one event to the next often times doing displays and demonstrations at various store openings or branch locations and finding media opportunities that are advantageous to the business they are promoting.  There are several pilots that make a living this way, but for most 'home' is often a different hotel room each night.



The shape pilot flies a balloon that is much more complex than most.  Special shaped balloons range from a simple appendage added to a standard shaped balloon to a giant flying motorcycle.  With today's technology and engineering a balloon can be built in just about any shape that you can imagine, for a price.  The shape pilot spends a lot of time traveling to different balloon festivals across the country and is compensated by being paid appearance fees at those events.


We are members of the Great Plains Balloon Club, a group of ballooning enthusiasts who share a passion for the sport and encourage anyone interested in ballooning to follow their dreams and keep the true spirit of ballooning alive and well.  We also believe that maintaining an active membership in the Balloon Federation of America, a unified voice representing balloonists across the U.S., is a vital step to keep ballooning as an activity that can be experienced by people from all walks of life.


A special "Thank You" goes out to all of the landowners across the country who allow balloonists to launch and land on their property.  If it wasn't for your hospitality none of this would be possible.  We are at the mercy of the winds and consider ourselves lucky to meet so many wonderful people when we drop in uninvited.  We hope you have had a pleasant experience and have some photos and special stories of your own to share with your friends and families.

Balloon Rides