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Crew Achievement Award Program (CAAP)



The Crew Achievement Award Program was in part designed to increase recognition of the often-unsung heroes of our sport - the dedicated crew.

Formally recognizing crew members and involving them in this program will mean crews will be more knowledgeable and enthused about ballooning  - which will ultimately mean safer flights.

Click to download a tri-fold brochure for Level 1

We hope crew members will work directly with their pilot(s) to achieve the various levels. Reviewing the basics and tackling new challenges will also be a learning experience for pilots.

Crew members are encouraged to keep logbooks. Not only will this be helpful for verification of experience, but a logbook is also a tangible record of many fond ballooning memories. If you would like to purchase a BFA Crew Logbook please visit the BFA Store on this website or contact the BFA Office 515-961-8809 to order.



All earned pins, patches, and certificates are sponsored by:






To apply, fill out the accompanying form and send it along with appropriate documentation to:

BFA Crew Achievement Award Program
1601 N. Jefferson Way, Suite B
Indianola, IA 50125 

Add $10.00 for shipping of your pins, patches, and certificates.

If you have any questions or comments about this program call (515) 961-8809.


Jump to a Crew Category (or just scroll down)


Individual who understands the basics of personal safety, ground operations, and balloon flight. Requires little instruction to perform any assigned crew task.

  1. Personal protection:
    1. Proper clothing: natural fibers, supportive footwear, gloves, etc.
    2. Do's/don'ts: no smoking, don't get in front of things that move, stay on the ground at all times, never tie rope around yourself, no phone use while driving, etc.
    3. Know what roles/tasks/ "normal" looks like throughout the course of a flight
  2. Pibal inflation
  3. Fan safety/operation: shutting off, moving, safety zone, loose items/grass, etc.
  4. Spreading envelope and/or tarp
  5. Assisting in securing parachute and/or vent(s)
  6. Laying out crown line
  7. Crowd control - cold inflation/launch/landing/tether
  8. Working throat (not deflation line side) during inflation
  9. Steadying basket on launch/landing
  10. Assisting pack-up: squeezing, folding/strapping, coiling lines, bagging envelope
  11. Helping load equipment after flight
  12. Develop full confidence to speak up when something doesn't look right
  13. Know your pilot's policies/expectations as to handling/managing:
    1. Unneeded first responders at landing ("everyone's OK, everything good")
    2. Landowners and trespassing (stay off private property until permission secured)
    3. Print, audio-visual photography/video, internet and social media:
      • Media policy will vary. Minimum: defuse adding heat as "on fire," landings as "crashes," etc.
  14. Being current member of a local balloon club (if possible)


Minimum crews: 10

Click here for Crew level I Worksheet


Well-versed in all aspects of ballooning and capable of instructing new crew. Applicant should meet Level 1 requirements and have experience in/be proficient at the following:

  1. Recovery Vehicle Management
    1. Readiness: keys (or spare), fuel, tire pressure, etc.
    2. Support gear: fire extinguisher, first aid kit, radios/chargers, maps, radios, electronics, cooler/water, fan gas, gloves, etc.
    3. Emergency contact list: know location in vehicle and how to contact
    4. Operation: safely drive/back vehicle both on/off-road before/during/after flight
  2. Pibal Observation
    1. Read heading using compass and estimate speed
    2. Plot flight path and potential landing sites on map based on readings
    3. Plot likely driving route on map based on readings and forecast
  3. Unload and place basket/envelope and install uprights/burners/instruments
  4. Able to instruct new crew and match to best roles
  5. Secure parachute and/or vents
  6. Stabilize balloon from cold inflation through launch using 1-2 crown lines
  7. Work both sides of throat during inflation (including monitoring deflation line)
  8. Secure fan/pack tarp in vehicle after launch
  9. Navigate vehicle and spot balloon during flight
  10. Operate radios when familiar with protocol
  11. Disconnect cables and remove uprights or assist loading unassembled basket
  12. Crew in at least two (2) of the following:
    1. 2 flights with 3 different pilots (6 tasks total)
    2. 1 flight with high-wind landing
    3. 1 flight with drop-line landing or 3-point tether operation
    4. 2 glows or static displays with stand-up times >30 minutes
  13. Complete one (1) of the following requirements
    1. 2 flights in unfamiliar area (100+ miles away from current flying area)
    2. Crew for 2 flights in a high-density event (20 balloons)
    3. Crew for 2 commercial flights
    4. Crew for 1 sanctioned competition flight
  14. Attend local safety seminar in last 12 months or since achieving the last CAAP level
  15. Being a current member of BFA

Minimum crews: 30

Click here for Crew level II Worksheet


Knows abilities of pilot/crew/equipment and meets needs of all at each stage of flight. Would have excellent understanding of all ground operations (including all liabilities and emergency procedures) and solid working knowledge of entire flight sequence. Applicant should meet all requirements of Levels 1 and 2 and learn/perform the following under the direct supervision of a licensed pilot:

  1. Develop personal crew chief checklist for entire flight sequence for personal use
  2. Able to deliver basic first aid and summon appropriate first responders
  3. Prevent and know how/when to fight/retreat from fires (fuel, power line, field)
  4. Know your pilot's Lost Balloon Plan or how to locate a lost balloon
  5. Weather Savvy: knowing:
    1. Your pilot's weather minimums
    2. How to read wind speeds from environment without mechanical/electronic aid (tune in to what is around you)
      • Smoke/exhaust straight up 1-3 mph
      • Flags/branches flutter at 4-7 mph
      • Flags standing straight out and hair tussling 8-10 mph
      • Fabric tarp or envelope or bodies of water ripple >10 mph
    3. How to obtain online wind conditions for your flight
    4. Identify changing/deteriorating conditions that impact your flight: ceiling dropping, mist/fog/rain developing, winds suddenly gust/drop, shift, etc.
    5. Radio weather info to pilot without alarming passengers
  6. Review flight plan " duration, direction, conditions, likely landing sites " with pilot
  7. Securely tie off basket to vehicle
  8. Know when/how to "rip out" unprompted on cold inflation
  9. Stabilize balloon with crown line(s) (load ring movement no more than 10 feet) in 8-10Kt+ during high-wind/cold/hot inflation and static display
  10. Clear basket/launch path and release tie off at launch
  11. Identify and radio power line locations when pilot flying <100 feet
  12. Obtain landowner permission prior to/at landing
  13. Be nearby or at landing to assist in following ways:
    1. Assess landing site/hazards and confirm approach/quality
    2. Direct a drop line landing
    3. Know if/when/how to add weight for landing
    4. Walk inflated balloon to better spot
    5. Keep fabric off obstacles when deflating (trees, lights, mailboxes)
    6. Quickly and safely dropping a spinnakerred balloon where needed
    7. Restricted area landing protocol: airports, tribal lands, military installations, etc.
  14. Shut off pilot light(s), shut down tank valves, bleed lines, remove burner(s) if needed.
  15. Assist with refueling
  16. Crew in at least two (2) of the following situations:
    1. 2 flights for 4 different pilots (8 tasks total)
    2. 4 flights with high-wind landing
    3. 3 drop-line landings and/or 3-point tether of > 60 minutes
    4. 3 glows or static displays with standup time >20 minutes
  17. Complete one (1) of the following requirements:
    1. 5 flights in unfamiliar area (100+ miles away from current flying area)
    2. Crew for 5 flights in a high-density event (20 balloons)
    3. Crew for 6 commercial flights
    4. Crew for 3 sanctioned competition flights
    5. Crew for 2 airship flights
    6. Crew for 1 gas balloon flight
    7. Assist in 1 annual inspection
  18. Attend local safety seminar in last 12 months or since achieving the last CAAP level:
  19. Being a current member of BFA

Minimum crews: 75

Click here for Crew level III Worksheet


Exceptional demonstrated knowledge and pilot redundancy (double checks for the pilot). A highly experienced crew chief capable of managing every aspect of flight operations under any conditions. Applicant should meet all requirements of Levels 1-3 and be able to perform the following under the direction and supervision of a commercially licensed pilot:

  1. Insure assembly/pre-flight checklist completed
  2. Able to obtain suitable preflight weather electronically and reconcile pibal, briefing, and online weather discrepancies
  3. Able to tactfully question/challenge a bad decision to fly (Hey, there's light rain on the tarp - what's the call? That cloud behind us is now towering - is that safe? It's picked up considerably - was that forecast? We're over our minimums - what are we doing?)
  4. Able to provide preliminary passenger briefing and answer any questions
  5. Assess passenger fitness (overall and for medical conditions) and notify pilot if needed
  6. Oversee cold inflation
  7. Understand and prepare for false lift (release, walk out, ready for weight on/guide basket)
  8. Monitor weather/flight clock/flight path/fuel levels throughout flight to anticipate issues
  9. Routinely be nearby or at landing
  10. Have plan ready to actively manage power line strike with fuel fire/unconscious victims
  11. Familiar with all aspects of landowner relations including trespass law, handling hostility
  12. Dropping an envelope with precision by managing crown lines and/or load tapes - load ring within 5-10 - of reasonable or safe target
  13. Deflate, pack, and securely load entire system
  14. Refuel with one other crew member
  15. Crew in ALL the following situations:
    1. 2 flights for 5 different pilots. (10 tasks total)
    2. 5 high-wind landing flights
    3. 5 drop line landings and/or 3-point tether of >90 minutes
    4. 4 glows or static displays with standup time >20 minutes
    5. Being able to assemble and pack up balloons from at least three different manufacturers
  16. Complete Two (2) of the following requirements:
    1. 10 flights in unfamiliar area (100+ miles away from current flying area)
    2. Crew for 5 flights in a high-density event (20 balloons)
    3. Crew for 10 commercial flights on 105 or larger
    4. Crew for 5 sanctioned competition flights
    5. Apply for student certificate/take written exam
    6. Serve as presenter at local safety seminar or volunteer/coordinate at local festival or man a ballooning information booth at a function
    7. Crew on for one flight of 35 miles or greater
    8. Crew for two airship flights
    9. Crew on a Gas Balloon flight
  17. Attend local safety seminar in last 12 mo. or since achieving the last CAAP level
  18. Being a current member of BFA

Minimum crews: 125

Click here for Crew level IV Worksheet


1. Program Emphasis - The emphasis of the program is to encourage those activities which will contribute to continuing crew education and safety within the sport of ballooning.

2. Award Applications - This is a voluntary program on the part of both the crew applicant and the endorser.

The crew applicant has the responsibility to provide the endorser and the CAAP Committee with reasonable proof that the specific requirements of the award applied for have been met. The progress through the achievement award levels will vary considerably with each individual crew. The best information available indicates that the average U S Pilot flies approximately 30 hours each year. With this assumption, the following time frame estimates are made to indicate how the average crew may progress through the program.

Estimated time for achievement in each award.

Level I - 4 months ( 4 months total)
Level II - 8 months (12 months total)
Level III - 20 months (32 months total)
Level IV - 12 months (44 months total)

3. BFA Crew Award Designee - Any individual who is a BFA Master Crew Chief, an FAA Designated Balloon Examiner, a BFA-appointed Crew Award Designee or a BFA board member past or present is eligible to endorse an award application. It must be noted, however, that these individuals have no real or implied obligation to do so except on a voluntary basis.

The provision for the third category is made so that any BFA-recognized balloon association or club may request the BFA Crew Achievement Award Committee to designate one of their highly qualified members to administer the award endorsements for their specific membership. The Committee may also appoint other individuals with the Level III award or equivalent qualifications to the status of BFA Crew Achievement Award Designee. For Level I, only the applicant's pilot need endorse the application.

4. Crew Achievement Award Program Appeal Jury - The BFA Board of Director's liaison to the Crew Achievement Committee shall appoint three members, two BFA Pilot members and one BFA Master Crew Chief member to serve as an appeal jury. This jury will assemble information and facts related to disputed award application and render a final decision accordingly.

5. BFA Continuing Education Program - Continuing education is a requirement of the Crew Achievement Award program because of the ever present need to both reinforce and update the crew's understanding of the various factors relating to balloon flight activity.

The BFA Education Committee has the responsibility for encouraging pilot and crew education through the development of suitable text materials and crew education and safety seminars held throughout the country which meet the requirements for the BFA endorsement.

Any questions or request for assistance in regard to BFA continuing education programs should be directed to the BFA Education Committee.

6. Flights in an unfamiliar geographic area - Crewing conditions do vary considerably throughout the country and in many instances, a hundred-mile distance may present the balloon crew with many surprising challenges. Each new experience tends to broaden the crew's knowledge and skills. An unfamiliar area is defined as any area at least 100 miles away from the regular flying area.

7. High density launch - Many pilots prefer to fly in isolation and avoid the more intense activity of a rally or competitive race. The inflation and launching of a balloon in the close proximity to other balloons does add some new factors for a crew to cope with. The result of this experience is broadening of crew knowledge, skills and confidence.

8. Completion of written FAA test - Though completion of the test alone does not mean the applicant will become a pilot, knowledge gained in preparing for the test is invaluable and helps the applicant better understand the conditions in preparation for a license. More importantly, ensures that the applicant has good understanding of conditions relating to safe flying.



A. Anyone is eligible to participate in the Crew Achievement Award Program. Applicants for Levels II-IV must be current members of the Balloon Federation of America.

B. Applications for the Achievement Awards are available from the BFA office or online at

C. The required endorsement on the application for an award is acceptable from any of the following individuals who will be identified in this program as " Authorized BFA Crew Award Designee.

  • Any BFA Master Crew Chief
  • An FAA Designated Balloon Examiner
  • A BFA appointed Crew Award Designee
  • Any BFA board member past or present. (note: Level I, only the applicant's pilot need endorse the application.)

D. All Participating BFA members will be required to apply for each Achievement Award in sequence unless a special circumstance justifies a waiver petition which will be presented to the Crew Achievement subcommittee for consideration.

E. The burden of proof of meeting the specific requirements of each level is the responsibility of the applicant. Specific activities should be documented and verified by each pilot for that flight in the form of a crew logbook, whenever possible. Proof of written FAA test results (Level IV) and attendance of continuing education programs (Level III) is required. Appropriate documentation or verification of completion of the requirement for each level, along with endorsements shall be submitted with the application

F. The application fees for the BFA Crew Achievement Award Program are $10.00 per level. The appropriate fee must accompany the application. If payment is not included the application will be held without action pending receipt of fee.

G. Awards for each level will include a certificate and a pin signifying the level achieved. Those successfully completing Levels III and IV will also receive a patch for that level.

H. Each applicant will screened by the BFA Crew Achievement Committee. The applicant will be notified by mail of the acceptance of the application or, if rejected, the reason for such rejection. The applicant will have the right of appeal to a special Appeal Jury within 60 days of rejection notification date.

I. There may be special circumstances where a waiver request on a specific criteria is justified. In these cases, a formal request in writing for the waiver must accompany the award application and include a full explanation and justification. The request must also be signed by the endorser of the original application.

J. The BFA board may authorize an Honorary Achievement Award for any crew member in recognition of an exceptional crewing accomplishment.



For all levels:

  • Endorsement of BFA crew award designee
  • Logbook copies (if applicable)
  • BFA member number (for Levels II-IV only)
  • Proof of attendance at BFA continuing education Program
  • Results of written FAA Private test (Level IV)

The following are available from the BFA Office:

(MC or VISA accepted)

  • Crew Logbooks: $15.00 each
  • Hot Air Balloon Crewing Essentials: $28.00 each
  • Ground Crew Manual: $20.00 each

A shipping fee may be added.

Mail order to: Balloon Federation of America
P.O. Box
, IA. 50125

Or call: 515-961-8809 515-961-3537 (fax)

Order online at at the BFA On-Line Shop


Worksheets are available to assist you in providing appropriate information for each level. Use additional task sheet copies where applicable.


  • Bob Tyszka
    238 Rainbow Drive PMB 11387
    Livingston, TX 77399-2038

  • Tony Saxton, BFA Board Liasion