Balloon Federation of America

The most EXCITING and ECONOMICAL way to get a drone license is to learn how to fly hot air balloons.


Currently the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires commercial drone operators to hold a “commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate.”

A lighter than air private pilot certificate meets the regulations to become a certifiable drone operator in less time and at a lower cost.

I have been speaking with many drone operators exploring learning to fly hot air balloons to meet the requirements for commercial drone operations.   Initially many people are put off by the requirements of earning a pilot certificate and do not understand the reasons or the value of the training.  The value in receiving pilot training not matter the form is to learn and understand the Federation Aviation Regulations including proper use of the national airspace to enhance the safety for the general public and aircraft sharing the same airspace with drones.  Training benefits all involved who sharing the airspace and enjoying a safe flying environment.

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of people flying drones for both personal and commercial applications which has created new challenges for keeping the airspace safe for all to use and enjoy..

Improved technology and lower entry costs to purchase drones makes them extremely accessible and affordable which has increased unsafe drone operations in general aviation resulting in requiring commercial drone operators to become certified pilots.

Hot Air Balloon flight instruction covers all the required knowledge areas and test preparations.  Below are several areas specific to drone applications that you will learn when taking flight instruction to improve your flight operations and knowledge.

a)      14 CFR (Federal Aviation Regulations) covering pilot privileges, limitations & flight procedures

b)      Use of Sectional Navigation charts and airspace knowledge

c)      Recognition of weather conditions and use of weather /forecasts and reports.

d)      Airport operations

Hot Air Ballooning is one of the most enjoyable forms of flight and one that can be shared with family and friends unlike other  any other form of flight.

Hot Air Ballooning is an affordable and enjoyable activity that you might not have ever considered but pursing commercial drone flying may have just introduced you to your next great flying adventure to enjoy for many years to come!

Please call or e-mail for more information on learning to fly hot air balloon and we will help make your commercial drone flying dreams come true with qualified flight instruction to make your drone flying operations safe and profitable.  Schedule a time and come out to CT01 Whelan Farms Airport in Bethlehem to expereince the magic of flight!

Buoyant Regards,



Adding a Hot Air Balloon Rating

If you have a powered aircraft rating — NO written exam required.
If you no powered aircraft rating — You will need to pass a written exam.

Flight Training Private Pilot Rating:
10 hours total over a minimum of 6 instructional flights including a solo flight.
One flight to 3000′ AGL. 2 training flights of on hour minimum.

Commercial Pilot Rating Requirements
35 total flight hours — 20 hours in balloons — 10 balloon flights.
10 hours of flight training that includes at least 10 flights.
One flight to 3000′ AGL. 2 training flights of one hour minimum.
2 solo flights.

For either rating — pass the appropriate practical (Flight) test.
No medical certificate required for either rating.

The Litchfield Hills Aero Club, LLC , is a not for profit, equity ownership flying club, that provides its members with affordable access to ballooning. The club is based at Whelan Farms Airport (CT01) and will be run by a board of directors elected by the membership, per club by-laws, which includes operating rules, members manual and flying schedule. We also welcome new members to join the team and have fun.

Call or e-mail to learn more about The Litchfield Hills Aero Club, LLC or learning to fly lighter than air aviation!


BFA Matchbooks

In 197, the Balloon Federation of America sold boxes of matches.  These matchbooks have the BFA emblem on the front cover, and the slogan “Fly in Balloons” ornately inscribed on the back.   Each box of fifty books of matches sold for $1.00 USD.   At that time matches could not be mailed, so the BFA matches were made available to purchase from the following BFA members, Norton Grim, Dennis Floden, Bob Waligunda, Dodds Meddock and Matt Wiederkehr.


These match books are an extremely rare piece of BFA history with a select few still available.

Commemorative pin in memory of Carol Rymer Davis and Richard Abruzzo

This gallery contains 3 photos.


On September 29, 2010 Carol Rymer Davis and Richard Abruzzo the team competing in the Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race went missing.  The balloon was last reported flying over the Adriatic Sea in thunderstorms and rough seas at the time.

 It was not until two months later that an Italian fishing boat hulled in the gondola with the remains of the two aeronauts still aboard ending the search for two amazing competitors and balloonists.  The National Transportation Safety Board released a report that the balloon was struck by lightning based on examination of the aircraft.

Dr. Carol Rymer Davis was a previous recorded holder for – altitude, distance, and duration – for class AX-5 hot-air balloons. She held the absolute altitude record for women in any size balloon for 15 years. Carol is a two-time Montgolfier Diploma recipient, won the Harmon Trophy, and in 2005 received the NAA Stinson Award and the Federation Aeronautique International’s Sabhia Gokcen (Grotchen) medal.  Both awards are given for the most outstanding performance of the year by a woman in any form of aviation. She is a former Balloon Federation of America Board Member, Treasurer, and Vice President and was the Balloon Fiesta’s chief safety official in 1991.Richard Abruzzo was the son of Ben Abruzzo, the legendary balloonist who completed the first manned transatlantic balloon crossing in 1978 and the first manned transpacific crossing in 1981. In 1992, Richard competed with Troy Bradley in the Chrysler Transatlantic Challenge race, setting a world record for duration and making the first balloon crossing from the USA to Africa. He is a former national gas balloon champion and has set numerous world records in gas balloons. His many honors include the Federation Aeronautique International De La Vaulx Medal, the Balloon Federation of America Shields-Trauger Award, and the Montgolfier Diploma.

He is a three-time winner of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Harmon Trophy.  He served on the Balloon Fiesta board of directors and is the current chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

The Gordon Bennett Cup (or Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett) is the world’s oldest gas balloon race, and is “regarded as the premier event for world balloon racing”.  The first race started from Paris, France, on September 30, 1906.  The event was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the millionaire sportsman and owner of the  New York Herald newspaper.  According to the organizers, the aim of the contest “is simple: to fly the furthest distance from the launch site.”  The contest ran from 1906 to 1938, interrupted by World War I and in 1931, but was suspended in 1939 when the hosts, Poland, were invaded at the start of World War II. The event was not resurrected until 1979, when American Tom Heinsheimer, an atmospheric physicist, gained permission from the holders to host the trophy. The competition was not officially reinstated by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) until 1983.

The Balloon Federation of  America Gas Division has agreed to co-sponsor with the German Gordon Bennett delegation led by Wilhelm Eimers, a commemorative pin in memory of Carol Rymer Davis and Richard Abruzzo.  In cooperation with the German delegation, in as much as it is in our power, these pins are not to be resold or used for commercial purposes.