Apex Balloons Hot Air Balloons Airships Designers & Manufacturers
Hot Air BalloonsSport BalloonsUltralight Hot Air BalloonsSpecial Shape Hot Air BalloonsHot Air AirshipsSpecial ProjectsHints & Tips for the Balloon HomebuilderContact

Ultralight Hot Air Balloons & Hot Air Airships

United States Federal Aviation Regulations, CFR 14 Part 103 allow an excellent opportunity to fly for those who have longed to be a pilot but have not had the opportunity to earn their pilot certificate or are not yet old enough. For those seeking to fly hot air balloons, Part 103 allows one to fly certain balloons and airships without a pilot certificate, training, annual inspection, registration, etc., and with very little regulatory interference. There are no age, knowledge, experience, or physical requirements for pilots of ultralight aircraft.

Realistically, however, there is a minimum practical necessity to have sufficient ballooning knowledge and decision-making skills, weather comprehension, and aeronautical experience, all of which are necessary to ensure your continued survival. Ultralight ballooning is not free from the normal inherent risks in aviation, and there is a higher likelihood of suffering severe injuries or death if you elect to fly without a certain minimum amount of skill and experience. We strongly encourage prospective ultralight balloon pilots to undertake at least a few hours of familiarization and flight training with a commercially-certificated hot air balloon pilot / instructor.

With that said, the FAA's Ultralight regulations allow solo flight in any hot air balloon which weighs 155 pounds or less empty. The empty weight limit for powered ultralights is 254 pounds, which includes airships. The weight of the envelope, burner(s), basket, fuel tanks and structural equipment count towards the total empty weight. The propane fuel for the burners is not counted; only the weight of the empty tanks and plumbing. The balloon or airship must not have a US or foreign airworthiness certificate, and passengers cannot be carried. Ultralights may not be used in the furtherance of a business - they are intended for recreational or sport flying only.

There is no maximum limit for the amount of propane onboard, but in the case of a "powered ultralight" - which a hot air airship qualifies as - there is a 5-gallon limit for fuel used for forward propulsion. The maximum empty weight limit for a powered ultralight is raised to 254 pounds, and the maximum airspeed is 55 knots - though if you can get any hot air airship going that fast, we salute you!

Ultralight balloon builders and pilots have been known to make use of many ingenious varieties of "bottom ends" - lightweight replacements for the traditional wicker basket used on standard balloons. Below are some photos of a few of the more common methods for suspending oneself beneath a small balloon. The possibilities are only limited by one's imagination!

Alan Lawson's Cloudhopper
(photo by Dan Nachbar)

Curtis Pack's Tank Rider
(photo by Dan Nachbar)

Jon Radowski's Recycling Bin
(photo by Dan Nachbar)

Noah Forden's Sled Hopper

Lightweight Aluminum & Cordura Collapsible Basket based on the Boland design

Lightweight Sling Seat built by Paul Stumpf, based on a Brian Boland design

Apex Balloons can manufacture any possible style/design of Ultralight hot air balloons and airships. Please contact us with any requirements or design suggestions you may have.


All content and images copyright ©2000- Jon Radowski unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.