Preflight Inspection Checklist

Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) and the practical test standards (PTSs) for balloon pilot certification require the pilot to inspect the balloon by systematically following an appropriate checklist prior to each flight. Most balloon manufacturers include a preflight inspection checklist in the flight manual. You should use this as the basis for your own preflight checklist. Each balloon manufacturer lists maximum allowable damage with which a balloon may fly and still be considered airworthy. Balloon owners should memorize the manufacturer’s maximum allowable damage rules and abide by them.

Using a written checklist, the pilot should make certain that the balloon is correctly laid out for inflation, all control lines are attached, the fuel system is operating correctly, maximum allowable damage limits are not exceeded, and there are no nearby obstacles directly downwind. The pilot is responsible for all aspects of flight, including preflight operations. If you are using a new crew, it is necessary to spend more time with them to make sure they understand their duties. Whether using your own experienced crew or a new crew at a rally, it is the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the balloon is correctly prepared for inflation and flight.

At this point, you make sure the chase vehicle is clear of the launch site, the keys are in the chase car or with the chase crew, passengers are nearby, and inflation crew is properly dressed and ready. You are now ready to proceed with inflation.

Proper use of a checklist makes the pilot and crew look more professional. If everyone is doing his or her job without excess conversation, confusion, and repetition, the entire scene builds confidence in everyone involved.

The best checklist is the one you write for your balloon, your crew, and your style of flying. A good source for checklist items is the manufacturer of the balloon. Also, you can combine checklists from other pilots and manufacturers into your personal checklist.

Remember that a checklist is a living document that may change or grow when modifications or additions are appropriate.

Emergency Checklist

Carefully study and memorize emergency checklists. Do not try to read a checklist during an emergency; that is for an aircraft with two- or three-person crews and lots of altitude. During an emergency, take prompt action, and when the situation permits, refer to the checklist to ensure that all necessary items have been accomplished.


Almost all balloon flights are accomplished with a crew. There are a few rugged individuals who inflate their balloon alone, make a flight, pack-up the balloon, and hitchhike back to the launch site, but they are rare. The crew is an essential part of ballooning. They should be well-trained and treated with respect and understanding.

Generally, there are two different areas of responsibility for a crew: inflation/launch and chase/ recovery. Both are usually referred to as ground crew. Passengers often serve as inflation crew, become passengers for the flight, and crew again after the balloon has landed.

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