The most frequent question we get asked is, I am using _______ for my FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam test prep, should I use The Balloon Training Academy?

Of course we would like to say the answer to that is, yes you should use The Balloon Training Academy! But, we know that there are many options out there for you to choose from. You can buy a book which is relatively inexpensive, there are apps, other websites, and there are even free websites which claim to have the “real” FAA questions.

What you will find with The Balloon Training Academy is that we are focused on ballooning. Many of the other test prep resources are geared towards aircraft other than balloons. Our test prep course is focused on balloons and we even provide additional information which likely won’t appear on the Knowledge Exam, but will be very helpful as you begin your flight training.

Our course is also focused on teaching you the material that you are likely to be tested on. The FAA has been mixing up and changing their test questions as they realized that people were going to those free online test prep websites and memorizing the questions and answers. The best way to prepare for the test is to learn the material, not the question and answer which you hope will appear! Our course teaches you the material so that you are prepared for any question the FAA gives you. We also have over 500 questions for you to practice which are similar to what you might experience on your exam!

What a week it’s been! We launched our Private Pilot Test Prep Course almost a week ago and have received tremendous feedback via social media and emails. Thank you for the many likes, shares, and comments!

We wanted to address some questions we have received.

Where did the idea for The Balloon Training Academy (BTA) come from? The idea for the BTA came from our work with the BFA Youth Program. We were heavily involved in the BFA Youth Program; volunteering as camp counselors, organizing and running our own BFA Youth Camp for three years, created and maintained the BFA Camps website before the new BFA website, writing the camp guidelines which are used for BFA camps today. The camps are great opportunities to showcase ballooning to youth and educate and train student pilots, but the camps end. The end of camp always left us wanting to do more. We thought, how can we keep camp going and allow the process to come full circle and get more pilots into the sport? The answer was The Balloon Training Academy.

If you’re a nonprofit, why aren’t the courses free? The answer to this question expands off the answer to the previous question. We want the process to come full circle. We want to get more pilots into the sport. If we only focus on giving ground training and preparing students to take the Knowledge Exam, then we are stranding them before they can achieve their rating. The reason we charge a course fee is because we want to raise funds to allow us to help students start/continue flight training after successfully completing the Knowledge Exam. We want to be able to create club balloons for users of our course to possibly use with a flight instructor to gain flight training. We want to be able to provide scholarships to flight schools. We want to complete the circle. We are a nonprofit because we operate in order to fulfill our mission, not fill our pockets. We don’t own the Academy, we are merely the Board of Directors who lead the Academy towards fulfilling its mission.

There are a bunch of websites out there that say they have the FAA questions, why should I pay to take your course? Something we didn’t know until we started The Balloon Training Academy is that the FAA doesn’t release their bank of test questions. 2008 was the last year that the FAA published a bank of possible questions. The reason why the FAA stopped publishing test questions is because too many students were simply memorizing the question and the answer. Students weren’t understanding the material. This has lead to many safety issues. The FAA has since not published the questions and they have gone through the questions and updated/changed them in order to keep the integrity of the exam. It’s kind of like while in College the professor realizes that final exams from previous semester have been floating around to the students. The professor then changes the questions on the next exam. Those students who learned the material are well prepared for whatever questions the professor gives them, while the students who only memorized the previous final exams are in panic mode when they realize that their final exam is totally different! Don’t be the panicked student! Learn the material through our course and be prepared to take the exam and be prepared for your flight training!

There are other ground schools or test preparation courses out there, why choose yours? We understand that there are many options out there for test preparation, most of which are very good options. Some options out there aren’t geared towards balloons. They probably still work, but you will probably be bored throughout the course learning airplane topics that ultimately won’t be relevant to you. We are Commercial rated balloon pilots with the knowledge and experience to present to you the topics that are important for you to know for the Knowledge Exam as well as prepare you for flight training. We even cover some airplane specific material because in our examination of the FAA Knowledge codes we believe some airplane questions could sneak onto your exam. Our courses also go deeper in many areas to provide you additional knowledge to prepare you for flight training and becoming a competent, safe pilot. There are some great ground schools offered who are organized by balloonists and those may be very beneficial to many students who need one on one instruction. Our courses are designed to be self-paced and very much learn on your own time courses. We understand that people have busy schedules and oftentimes can’t attend an in-person ground school. Finally, we are a nonprofit. Many ground schools are created by for-profit companies. As I have mentioned above, we exist to fulfill our mission. The money we earn though course fees goes back into the ballooning community to help students become pilots.

Take a look at the graphs which show the number of test takers for the Private and Commercial hot air balloon Knowledge Exam from 2002 to 2015. The number of test takers has been on the decline. The numbers hit their lowest levels in the height of the great recession of 2007-2009, but they have not been able to rebound as the economy has improved. When looking at the overall trends of private pilot test takers, it’s hard to say the economy has had any impact as the trend has been sharply downward since 2002.

This is only the number of knowledge exam test takers, not those who have taken a check ride, although we imagine the trend to be similar. Ballooning needs help getting pilots into the sport and earning their certificate. The Balloon training Academy hopes to be that help while not sacrificing knowledge and safety.

We have the Balloon Federation of America (BFA), why isn’t this a part of that organization? The missions of The Balloon Training Academy and the BFA are very similar; safety and growing the sport. As mentioned in the answer to question #1, we were heavily involved in the BFA Youth Program when we came up with this idea. This idea was tossed around the BFA, and ultimately decided that although the BFA is for safety and growing the sport, the organization wasn’t in a position to become a teacher. An online training Academy and creating club balloons, providing scholarships for flight training, etc., in it’s entirety was outside the scope of the BFA. However, the BFA and some of it’s members have donated to us the funding for us to purchase the software to run the site and keep it up while we organized and developed the content. We hope the BTA will become a great resource for the BFA and ballooning community. That’s an example of two nonprofit organizations with a common mission working together to achieve that mission.