Operations resources


Sport and recreational aviation activities



Types of operation

Balloons are permitted to operate in private, aerial work and charter operations. Aerial work and charter operations are flown under an Air Operator Certificate (AOC)—the pilot in command holds a commercial pilot (balloon) licence and is responsible to a chief pilot in accordance with CAO 82.7. Private operations are conducted by pilots who hold an Australian Ballooning Federation Inc issued certificate.

Unless authorised by CASA, pilots of balloons engaged in private operations must not operate:

  • in controlled airspace
  • below 2000 ft above aerodrome level within 3 nm of a certified aerodrome, or
  • below 1000 ft above ground level over a populous area.

Permission to fly in these areas—either for a specified event or for suitably qualified pilots—may be sought from CASA offices. When permissions are issued, they usually contain directions to operate in the same manner as balloons in aerial work or charter operations

Pilots of balloons engaged in aerial work or charter operations can:

  • operate within controlled airspace subject to an ATC clearance
  • operate from certified aerodromes and
  • take off from, and land at, adequate open spaces within populous areas. When doing this, they must ensure that the balloon reaches the minimum overflight of 1000 ft AGL within a reasonable time following take-off, and minimise the time spent flying at low level whilst approaching to land in or within 300 m of a populous area.

Except where overflying a populous area, balloon pilots do not have to observe a minimum height. However, this does not absolve pilots from any responsibility with respect to landholders, stock or property. The Australian Ballooning Federation Inc maintains a register of sensitive areas where landholders have requested that pilots either do not land, or alternatively, observe a minimum over flight height.

Carriage and use of radio

Pilots of balloons engaged in aerial work or charter operations are required to carry and use VHF radio for communication, as necessary, with other aircraft and with ATS. However, the operators are authorised to maintain their own SARWATCH, and no flight notification is required for flights outside controlled airspace.

Pilots of balloons who have been permitted to operate in controlled airspace and below 2000 ft AAL within 3 nm of a certified aerodrome must carry and use radio as described in the paragraph above. Where a number of balloons are permitted to operate together in the vicinity of a non-controlled aerodrome at which the carriage and use of radio is mandatory, one balloon in each group may maintain radio communication for the group.

Pilots of balloons engaged in private operations must carry radio and use it in accordance with the procedures described in AIP ENR 1.1 section 6 while they are operating:

  • within the vicinity of a non-controlled aerodrome where radio carriage and use is required
  • at or above 5000 ft above mean sea level
  • within 10 nm of an aerodrome with a published instrument approach procedure or
  • at night.

The holder of a private pilot certificate issued by the Australian Ballooning Federation Inc may have that certificate endorsed to permit radio communication on VHF frequencies only, without being the holder of a flight radiotelephone operator’s licence.

Operations in the vicinity of aerodromes

Within 3 nm of an aerodrome, the pilot in command of a balloon must give way to other traffic operating in the traffic pattern of the aerodrome which is applicable to the runway in use at the time

The pilot in command of a balloon who intends to overfly an aerodrome within 3 nm should do so at a height greater than 1500 ft above the aerodrome. In the case of a private balloon flight which is not specifically authorised by CASA, over-flight must be conducted more than 2000 ft above the aerodrome.

The pilot of a balloon which is taking off within 3 nm of an aerodrome must give way to aircraft which are landing or on final approach to land, by delaying their take-off or, if airborne, by climbing or descending to remain clear of the other aircraft’s flight path.

Meteorological conditions for balloons

AIP ENR 1.2 prescribes VMC for balloons. Operations in other than prescribed VMC are not permitted.

Night balloon operations

Aerial work and charter operations by pilots who hold a NVFR (balloon) rating, and private operations with specific permission from CASA, may be conducted at night. In the case of aerial work and charter operations, these are restricted to the period of one hour before first light

Operations in controlled airspace

Before a proposed flight in controlled airspace, a balloon operator or pilot in command must liaise with ATS as follows:

  • contact ATC by telephone or radio before inflating the balloon to advise the planned launch site and likely direction or area of flight, and ascertain the availability of an ATC clearance
  • call to obtain a clearance before becoming airborne.

The pilot must maintain a continuous listening watch on the appropriate frequency during flight within controlled airspace, and report flight progress as ATC requires. The pilot must report changes in the direction of drift, which will cause the balloon to diverge from its nominated track or area of operations, as soon as possible, and, in any case, before the track error exceeds 1 nm.

For operations in an area of controlled airspace within radar coverage, a serviceable SSR transponder must be carried, unless ATC has advised otherwise.

In the event of a radio failure or other emergency, the relevant procedures as listed in the AIP see section of the VFRG on Emergency procedures—Communication failure—Procedures.

Particular attention should be given to notifying the termination of a flight where radio contact is not available.

For more information: www.casa.gov.au/sportaviation

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