FAAFAQs on FAA's Event Guidance


Most have seen that the FAA has recently released its most comprehensive revision of FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 3 Chapter 6 Section 1 and 3, Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS).  The new guidance will have a profound impact on Hot Air Balloon Events requesting a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for an aviation event.  The new guidance will be thoroughly explored at the BFA’s upcoming Balloon Event Symposium in Plano, TX and you are encouraged to attend if you are involved in an event operating under a waiver.

There are many questions surrounding this new guidance and some misinformation is circulating.  To provide some general guidance, here are some Frequently Asked Questions and responses.


Q     Must I apply for and operate under a waiver for my hot air balloon event?

A     No.  Nothing has changed in the guidance requiring any aviation event to apply for a waiver.  If you have not operated under a waiver in the past, you probably won’t need to in the future unless some event operational changes have occurred requiring a waiver.


Q     In what situations do I need to apply for a Waiver, FAA Form 7711-2?


  1. Balloon Events. Routine balloon ascensions can usually be conducted in accordance with the provisions of part 91, and no CoW is required. These other operations may include tethered balloon rides, balloon glows, and dawn patrol.

You are only required to file for a waiver if you are requesting waiving of a Federal Aviation Regulation.  Typically, waivers are requested for these sections:

  • Minimum altitude: 91.119 (b) and (c)
  • Limitations when operating in Class B, C, D or E airspace: 91.127 (a) and (c), 91.129 (a) and (c), 91.130 (a),
  • Communication requirements: 91.130 (c) and (d)

Generally, if you are not operating in controlled airspace or are not running a competitive event requiring lower flight, you don’t need to apply for and operate under a waiver.


Q     So, if I don’t have to apply for and operate under a waiver, I assume the provisions of FSIMS don’t apply to my event.

A     Not so fast.  The new FSIMS provides FAA inspectors guidance in the interpretation and enforcement of many regulations critical to hot air balloon events.  Even though you are not operating under a waiver, you are always required to adhere to all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations.


Q     What are some examples of new guidance on FAR interpretation I should be aware of in running my waivered or non-waivered event?

A     Compensation at Aviation Events: “To receive any compensation (monetary, fuel, lodging, meals) for flight activities an airman must have a Commercial Pilot Certificate . . .”  Specific guidance on typical balloon event activities that might be perceived as compensation are clarified by the FSIMS:

  • Propane supplied to all participants at a balloon event for a small fee (e.g., event entry fee) is not considered to be receiving compensation under 14 CFR part 61, § 61.113.
  • Other items (e.g., meals and lodging) that are provided regardless of whether the pilot flies or not are not considered compensation under § 61.113.
  • The pilot may be required to give a ride to a member of the press, organizer’s committee, or one of the sponsors for the event. If none of these people have paid for a ride, including the sponsor – even though he may have donated resources in order for the event to take place, and the pilot does not receive any additional compensation for taking the passenger above and beyond what is given to all other participants, then the pilot is not considered to be carrying passengers for compensation or hire.
  • Prize money awarded on the basis of competition is not considered compensation.


Q     Since fuel is considered compensation, how do I avoid issues with private pilots at my event?

A     Charge all pilots an entry fee to attend the event which would represent a sharing of expense related to propane.


Q     But I’m afraid if I start charging an entry fee my long-time regular pilots will not attend.  Any suggestions on how to handle that?

A     Create a prize fund that ensures a minimum payout equal to the pilot entry fee.  The out of pocket cost to the pilot is then zero.  However, pilot stipends for glowing at an event is an issue so you should only have commercial pilots glow or don’t pay the private pilots the stipend.  Or, offer ‘show-up’ money, but ensure that it is given to all registered pilots regardless of whether they ultimately fly or not.


Q     I understand that there is a significant increase in forms and paperwork that I must submit with an Application for Waiver.  What are the major new requirements.

A     One of the most significant changes requires filing the request for Waiver (Form 7711-2) is that it is due 90 days before the event and 120 days is recommended.  The old rule was 45 days!


As to new paperwork, there is a lot but here are the most burdensome:

  • Pilot paperwork to be collected by the organizer and forwarded to FSDO
    • Pilot certificate,
    • Copy of photo ID
    • Airworthiness and registration certificate
    • Copy of operating limitations
    • Copy of current inspections: annual/100 hour
  • Additional data and diagrams to supplement application
    • Emergency Response Plan
    • Security Plan

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View Full FAA Policy - Certificate of Waiver

178 Pages - Updated 10/17/2018