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Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Rides Blog

Brian's Trip to Phoenix: Certifying New Hot Air Balloon Pilots

Laurie Givin - Tuesday, April 12, 2016



This last week, Phoenix, AZ was filled with hot air balloon students looking to take their private and commercial check rides. Although there are hundreds of FAA examiners licensed to provide check rides for airplane pilots, very few are certified to be a flight examiner for hot air balloon pilots. In the western half of the United States, there are only two-- one in California and one in Utah. Brian Trapp, a dedicated examiner from Ohio, traveled to Phoenix to give check rides for five students. Brian has over 4,500 hours in balloons, and has been flying since 1983.

Although there are hundreds of FAA examiners licensed to provide check rides for airplane pilots, very few are certified to be a flight examiner for hot air balloon pilots.

What does a hot air balloon check ride look like?

It consists of two parts. The first is the oral examination, during which the examiner verbally quizzes the applicant for several hours about the following subjects:

  1. Preflight Planning - collection & analysis of weather data, and the selection of a launch site
  2. Preflight Procedures - the inspection of your aircraft for flight to include assembly, rigging, & checklists
  3. Airport Operations - navigation, communication and flying in the national airspace system
  4. Maneuvers - takeoffs, climbs, level flight, descents, approaches to and landings, use of steerage winds
  5. Emergency Procedures - fuel, fire, weather
  6. Performance Maneuvers - high altitude, rapid climbs & descents, high wind operations, high temperatures
  7. Federal Air Regulations - Part 61, Part 91, NTSB rules
  8. Aircraft Flight Manual - use of performance charts and calculating gross lift
  9. Post Flight Procedures - landowner relations, packing, fueling safety
  10. Balloon Flying Handbook

This lists only touches the surface of the subject matter that's covered. You can view the full list of test standards for private pilots by clicking here, and commercial pilots by clicking this link.

The second part of the test is a practical exam. The applicant is the pilot-in-command, and the examiner's job is to ensure that the applicant uses proper aeronautical decision-making, flies the balloon safely, can handle distractions, is proficient in emergency procedures, packing up, and refueling.

We would like to congratulate the new pilots, and thank Brian for taking the time to travel to Phoenix. Below is a list of new commercial and private pilots who passed their check rides in Phoenix last week:

New Commercial Pilots:


Eliav Cohen - Seattle, Washington

Eliav is the owner and chief pilot of Seattle Ballooning, and provides hot air balloon flights just North of Seattle, in Snohomish, Washington. You can check out his website at: Seattle Ballooning


Patrick Nilz Jr.

New Private Pilots


Phoebe Brown

John Lord - Phoenix, Arizona

Shawn Wix - Phoenix, Arizona





Written by Eliav Cohen a hot air balloon enthusiast and commercial pilot in Seattle, WA.


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