ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A shortage in hot air balloon pilots has a well-known company scrambling to get people trained and ready to go by Balloon Fiesta in October. They said that compared to the last 20-30 years, there aren’t as many pilots coming in.
Rainbow Ryders claimed they’re down hot air balloon pilots. Scott Appelman, the company’s CEO, said right now they only have 24 pilots, but during Balloon Festa, they usually have around 50.
“We have a great need for pilots as the industry pilots are getting older and not enough people coming in,” said Appelman.
In a couple of years, some of Rainbow Ryders’ pilots will be retiring. This is why the company is heavily promoting its internship program, hoping it will help bring more interest to the career.
“As far as our retirement rate, we’ve probably got one or two people that are getting ready to retire in the next three to four years, so we’re trying to get ahead of that curve and get these folks trained up well,” said Appelman.
The paid internship program where they train to be pilots takes anywhere from six to twelve months, depending on experience.
“They will receive a salary, so it’s not a free internship. They receive training that will get them up to a point where they can be flying larger balloons and have enough experience to be in those balloons,” said Appelman. “We’ll go through and review applications and then interview the folks we do a pretty extensive background check, driving and all those types of things because we’re looking for people that are safety conscious that have the right culture going towards flying an aircraft as well as entertaining our guest.”
In the last few days, Rainbow Ryders has received 20 applications.