In the United States, a pilot of a hot air balloon must have a pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and it must carry the rating of "Lighter-than-air free balloon", and unless the pilot is also qualified to fly gas balloons, will also carry this limitation: "Limited to hot air balloons with airborne heater".
In order to carry paying passengers for hire (and attend some balloon festivals), a pilot must have a commercial pilot certificate. Commercial hot air balloon pilots may also act as hot air balloon flight instructors.
A pilot does not need a license to fly an ultralight aircraft, but training is highly advised, and some hot air balloons meet the criteria.
While most balloon pilots fly for the pure joy of floating through the air, many are able to make a living as a professional balloon pilot. Some professional pilots fly commercial passenger sightseeing flights, while others fly corporate advertising balloons.31
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