This chapter introduces the balloon pilot to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) and provides a discussion on required and preventative maintenance.


The FAA's mandate from the federal government is to regulate aviation and aeronautics to protect passengers and people on the ground. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) is designed to promote safety.

Balloon pilots primarily need to be conversant with the following regulations.

   • 14 CFR part 1: Definitions and Abbreviations.

   • 14 CFR part 31: Airworthiness Standards: Manned Free Balloons.

   • 14 CFR part 43: Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding, and Alteration.

   • 14 CFR part 61: Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors.

   • 14 CFR part 91: General Operating and Flight Rules.

   • NTSB part 830: Rules Pertaining to the Notification and Reporting of Aircraft Accidents or Incidents and Overdue Aircraft.

Regulations are continually being revised and a good pilot should have some method for keeping up with the latest changes. Some ways to learn regulatory changes are to subscribe to balloon magazines, newsletters, and to attend safety seminars regularly.

Some state and local governments have created laws governing balloon flight and some of these local laws conflict with FAA regulations. It is the responsibility of the pilot to know under what regulations they are operating the balloon. On the ground, the pilot, chase crew, and chase vehicle are subject to local laws. Balloonists should be knowledgeable of local trespass laws, which can vary from area to area.


There are two kinds of maintenance, (1) preventive maintenance, which consists of a specific list of work that may be performed by the owner/operator of an aircraft; and (2) all other maintenance, which must be performed by an authorized repairman at a certificated repair station, a certificated mechanic, or the manufacturer. A well-maintained balloon is safer and easier to fly than a poorly-maintained balloon.

Required Maintenance

Every balloon must have an annual inspection and, if used for commercial purposes, 100-hour inspections. An annual inspection may be performed by a certificated repair station or by a certificated mechanic (A&P) with inspection authorization (IA) who is familiar with the balloon, has the manufacturer's instructions for continued airworthiness, pertinent Airworthiness Directives (ADs), and all required documentation, tools, and equipment.

All manufacturers specify maximum allowable damage in their instructions for continued airworthiness. If the maximum damage is exceeded, the balloon must be repaired before the next flight.

Some damage may be repaired by the owner/operator, but most requires repair by certificated personnel.

Service letters and service bulletins are not mandatory but compliance is recommended. ADs are mandatory and must be complied with as directed.

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