Sir Richard Branson isn’t the only Virgin-ite without a regular day job. Our pilots are also pioneers of the 9-5 revolt.

Virgin Balloon Flights employs twenty pilots across the country. During the season (weather permitting) our pilots and crew are up and out at the crack of dawn flying our morning passengers, and later on in the afternoon for our PM flights.

Since flying is such a seasonal sport, a number of our pilots have other jobs. Richard Prowse, our South West pilot, owns an arborist company.

From November to February, a number of our pilots and crew fly off to warmer climates and spend the winter abroad. This year, Mark Simmons, who flies for us over Bristol and Bath, took off for Southeast Asia.

He said: “It is just incredible. Every time I return, it takes my breath away. We offer people sunrise and sunset champagne flights from October through to the end of March and it’s a fantastic way to see this ancient kingdom. “It’s certainly different to where I fly in the UK and I enjoy both but for different reasons.”

When I grow up I want to be…a hot air balloon pilot?

We’ve heard it all before - Britain is battling extremely high rates of unemployment. But, whilst there are piles of information out there on how to write the perfect CV, it’s more difficult to find tips on cinching more unusual occupations.

So how did our pilots go about landing this high-flying role?

To be a qualified hot air balloon pilot the individual must hold a valid Private Pilot’s Licence, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

To attain the licence a candidate must…

  • Have flying experience of at least 16 hours within the preceding 24 months.
  • Have undertaken a minimum of 6 flights
  • Have made a minimum of 4 flights with a BBAC approved Instructor; the rest may be with any valid PPL(B) holder
  • Keep a flight log with flight training records completed by the instructing pilot.
  • Keep a BBAC training log; this is a requirement of the BBAC not the CAA.
  • Be recommended by a BBAC approved Instructor for a flight test.
  • Undertake a flight test examination with a CAA approved Examiner.
  • Perform a solo flight under the supervision of the Examiner or an instructor delegated by the Examiner.
  • Take written examination in Aviation Law, Navigation, Meteorology, Balloon Systems and Human Performance.
  • Medical declaration of fitness signed by your GP. Some GPs will require an examination.
  • Attend an approved Landowner Relations Seminar.
  • Complete the written examinations and flight test within a 24-month period.

Our pilots hold a commercial balloon licence which allows them to carry passengers under the Virgin Balloon Flights name.

If you’re in need of a reason to escape the daily grind, call 01952 212750 or visit to book your ballooning adventure today.