Unintended opportunities – Medical Certification Standards for Commercial Balloon Operations

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

In life, change can be scary. Oftentimes we associate change with negative thoughts or beliefs. The new rule on medical certification standards for commercial balloon operations is no different. We hear repeatedly how the medical ruling will ruin ballooning. We hear how there will be unintended consequences and a complete meltdown of the industry. The Balloon Federation of America wrote to the FAA in their response to the rule, “We also have a very great concern of the overreaching consequences of this ruling should it result in pilots becoming disenfranchised with ballooning because of this ruling. If, as a result of this rule, we see a significant number of pilots decide to leave the sport, the watershed effect could be devastating to the future of ballooning.” 

The medical rule does not stop pilots from flying, only requires those to hold a 2nd class medical while conducting privileges of a commercial certificate (other than training). If a commercial pilot conducts operations equal to private pilot privileges (or provide instruction), there is no medical requirement. In addition, in two webinars with the FAA, both when the rule was pending and now that it is final, the FAA has discussed that less than 1.3% of all medical applications are denied. Of the 1.3%, most were denied for not providing follow up paperwork. Only 0.1%, or 432 applications out of 387,345 total applications submitted are denied after all required follow up! That is really quite remarkable that every step of the way the FAA’s aerospace medicine group tries to get pilots back to flying as long as it is medically safe to do so. 

You can watch the webinars referenced above through the following links:

Part 1 before the rule was final – https://www.theballoontrainingacademy.com/course/medical-certification/

Part 2 after the rule was final –  https://skillfull.com/Course/Kiaaaaaab

I like to think of change as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, grow, and not become stuck in the past. The medical rule change does provide opportunities; you just have to look for them. One opportunity is the opportunity to grow ballooning. Yes, the medical rule can without a doubt contribute positively to the growth of hot air ballooning. Crazy? No! If a commercial pilot chooses not to get their medical certificate, they are not done flying. It might seem like ballooning is becoming too stringent, with too many rules, too many hoops to jump through, and too much work. 


This is an opportunity for you to share your knowledge with the next generation! Become an active flight instructor, share your knowledge, and put your efforts to training pilots! As I have mentioned for many years now, our pilot numbers are on a downward trend. We do not come anywhere close to producing enough new pilots to cover those leaving ballooning. For almost 20 years now, we have been in a downward spiral and the medical rule is not the cause of it! The lack of quality and available instructors is! The medical rule provides a fantastic opportunity to reverse the downward spiral and get the pilot numbers trending the right direction. 

If you choose not to fly commercially anymore, you can still pay for your flying through providing flight instruction AND you can have the student’s crew do all the work! Imagine going out to fly and all you have to do is show up and teach what is in that brain of yours! You might not even have to fly your own balloon or use your chase vehicle! You can get paid (or a free breakfast or dinner) just for sharing your knowledge. 

You might be a little nervous about providing flight instruction if you have not done much of it. No worries, The Balloon Training Academy is here to help. You can view so much great content on our website as well as purchase training syllabus and lesson plans. www.theballoontrainingacademy.com This is an opportunity for us to create a longstanding impact on the future of ballooning, but also for you to learn, grow, and improve your own skills as a pilot through teaching others.

The medical certification standards for commercial balloon operations has allowed us to take a deeper dive into regulations for better understanding and offer the FAA areas for improvement.

How many times have you done the following?

  • Logged a night glow or static display as PIC time?
  • Logged one hour ground instruction for your flight review?
  • Logged ground instruction time for areas of operation in 61.107 (private) or 61.127 (commercial) as a part of flight training for a certificate or rating?

Clarifications in the medicals final rule showed us that the logbooks available to us do not do a good job of allowing us to follow the rules. Far too often, I see pilots log night glows or static displays as PIC time, however it’s not PIC time. Far too often, I see pilots do not log the one hour of ground instruction required for a flight review or the ground instruction required for the maneuvers listed in regulation for private or commercial certification although it is required under the regulation. The issue is, the current logbooks available for sale on the market do not standalone and conform to the regulations. Sure, you can make edits to the layout or write in items to make the bought logbook conform, but that requires you to have the knowledge of what is needed or needed to be changed. If you do not know, and just fill out your logbook by how the logbook is designed, your logbook will not conform to the regulations!

We have taken this information and redesigned pilot logbooks to help! With the pilot logbook we have available for sale it is easy to properly log what is required! The logbook is designed for pilots to log what is required to log according to the regulations. The logbook can standalone and meet regulations. The medical rule provided an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and get better as a community. We have also offered to the FAA areas for improvement within their own regulations that make logging flight training and PIC time more clear. We can do better, and so can the FAA! We likely would not have had the opportunity had the medical rule not started the conversation.

Here are some examples of logging time in our logbook vs the others:

The above picture is of logbooks available in the market currently. It does not have a column for PIC time. There is an incredible amount of confusion within the industry on what is PIC time, mainly because of the inability to accurately log PIC time according to 61.51 in the commercially available logbooks. The logbook is not designed to meet regulations because it does not allow for the logging of PIC time that is required of the regulations. It is common practice in the industry while using these logbooks to incorrectly include ground time as PIC time and incorrectly include ground time as total duration of flight. 

Also, the above picture is of logbooks available in the market currently lists type of piloting time as “free flight vs tether flight”, tether flight is unnecessary. In FAA regulations, there is no such thing as tether flight and tether flight is not piloting time which should be logged according to 61.51. Inclusion of “tether flight” as pilot time in the logbook has perpetrated many longstanding and incorrect beliefs about tether flight. First, it perpetrates an idea that free flight and tether flight are different, they are not. A balloon operating a tether flight is in flight just as a balloon in free flight is in flight. There is no difference on the regulations involving a balloon in flight and a balloon conducting a tether flight.  Second, it has confused the term “tether flight” for “static display”. A tether flight and static display are completely different and have completely different regulations apply. A tether flight is in flight while a static display is not. A static display does not conform to the definition of flight in 1.1. This logbook confuses normal hot air balloon operations such as static displays and night glows as meeting the definition of flight and being appropriate entries as pilot time.

Also, the above picture is of logbooks available in the market currently does not have a column for logging ground training in accordance with 61.51, 61.107, 61.109, 61.127, 61.129, etc. 

When we say the logbook we created is the only balloon logbook designed to meet FAA regulations it is because it is the only balloon logbook designed to standalone and allow pilots to properly log time per the regulations. Our logbook is designed to help pilots accurately log pilot time according to the regulations and current interpretations of logging time for balloons. 

Our logbook allows you to record ground instruction with flight instruction to meet the requirements of 61.51, 61.107, 61.109, 61.127, 61.129, etc.  Our logbook also allows you to log time according to 61.51 appropriate to ballooning. Here are some common examples:

If you conduct a night glow or static display – you can choose to log an hour in “total time” column, no other column would accrue time.

If you are logging a flight review received – you can choose to log “total time” as total flight and ground time or simply use total time to keep track of flight time + glow/static display time – our “total time” column does not use confuse flight – meaning you can choose non-flight time to be included in flight time if you wish. You would record one hour (or more) of ground instruction received, one hour (or more) of flight instruction received, and possibly one hour (or more) of PIC time depending on 61.51. This entry combined with an endorsement of successful completion of a flight review leaves no questions. 

If you are logging instruction for a student’s logbook – you can choose to log “total time” as total flight and ground time or simply use total time to keep track of flight time + glow/static display time. You would record the time appropriate for ground received and flight received. A student receiving training would not log PIC time until completing a solo, and would not log solo time until meeting 61.87 and completing solo flight. Our logbook allows flight instructors to properly record training time in accordance with 61.51, 61.107, 61.107, 61.87, etc. 

One additional item to mention is that we know people love to write a lot in the comments of what training was conducted. We encourage instructors to only log the areas of operation required in 61.87 and 61.107 (or appropriate commercial regulations) in the student’s permanent logbook. This is because we highly encourage instructors keep a separate training file for students using our Private Pilot Syllabus and Lesson Plans. This is because flight instruction records are required to be kept for three years, not permanently. Also, keeping the permanent logbook clean and to the point makes the DPE and FAA’s life easier. 

You can check out our Private and Commercial Syllabus here:



The link to our Balloon Logbook here:


The medical certification rule for commercial balloon operations is neither good nor bad, it is. It is up to you to understand the rule, apply the rule, and take advantage of opportunities within the rule to learn, grow, and be the best you can be. Next time someone brings up the medial certification standards for commercial balloon operators, tell them about how the final rule created many unintended opportunities!