ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Hundreds of pilots from across the world gather each year for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Many of those same pilots have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to own a balloon and operate it.
Cost of owning and operating a hot air balloon
KRQE News 13 spoke to Paul Petrehn who has been a balloon pilot since 1995 and was the director of the Balloon Fiesta from 2015 to 2017. Petrehn said purchasing a new hot air balloon can cost between $35,000 to $40,000.
“Depending on all the accessories that you might add to that, it could start going up from there and also depending on the size, and depending on the artwork or complexity of the design, it could start to go up dramatically from there,” Petrehn explained.
Large balloons can easily get into the $50,000 to $100,000 range, according to Petrehn. “You get into the 12-plus passenger range of hot air balloon systems, you start getting a lot closer to the 125 to 100 and $150,000 range,” he said.
Some special shape balloons can cost up to $200,000 depending on how intricate the shape is.
Petrehen said the costs do not stop there. It also takes hundreds of dollars to get the balloons inflated and off the ground. “We use propane, we also need a chase vehicle, you need crew, you need an inflation fan to fill it full of air while it’s laying outside. So there’s all the ancillary equipment that goes along with it,” he explained while also noting the cost of insurance.
“If you fly more throughout the course of the year, some of those costs will spread out a little bit, more appropriately. But, you do have, you do have hundreds of dollars worth of costs, for each and every flight,” he added. Petrehen said buying used equipment can help save money.
Cost of training and obtaining a license
Other costs to factor in are obtaining a pilot’s license and paying for training. “Flight training will vary depending on the individual and can range from $3,000 for the minimum number of hours with student pilot-provided equipment for private pilot training and can exceed $7,000 for commercial pilot training. There are additional costs if more than the minimum number of hours are required and for use of flight school or instructor balloon equipment,” Petrehen stated in an email.
Cost of transporting hot air balloon equipment
If pilots from out of the country are attending Balloon Fiesta, they are paying for shipping via air or boat. Petrehen said sometimes pilots will combine their equipment to save money. This year international pilots are coming from Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom
As for pilots in the United States or surrounding countries, Petrehen said they will typically drive their equipment to Albuquerque.