Per FAA regulations, an IFR flight plan must be filed before going above 18,000 feet MSL as this is class A airspace. How do we fill out the IFR flight plan if the destination landing site and the route taken of the lighter than air aircraft are unknown, and one of the crew members will be disembarking in flight and parachuting down?

Note: This operator does this on a regular basis. They use manned helium lighter than air craft, not hot-air balloons as answered on previous questions so this question is not a duplicate.

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    $\begingroup$ You should be able to, with reasonable accuracy, determine your route. You can do this with winds-aloft and other meteorologic data. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ Off track but before you get too far along, make sure you have a contract for He. 100% He is virtually impossible to buy now unless you have an established medical, research or industrial account which has been buying He, and the price is again going up, like it did 8 years or so ago. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @mongo if He gas cannot be obtained, is it possible to use hydrogen if all possible safeguards are taken? Should I open as separate question? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ That would be a good new question. I am not sure that all possible safeguards is adequate. Remember the Hindenburg! $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 6:00

2 Answers 2


I just helped a University launch of an unmanned balloon and I used an E-6B for completing the NOTAM for the launch. GPS and tracking showed that the estimated path deviated from actual path by small numbers.

We were advised that no IFR FP was required for a small (~3kg payload) unmanned balloon, so none was filed. We did advise center at launch, and with updates on the way up and down.

Addendum #1 After thinking about this, there are really two parts to this question. The part about route prediction I have addressed in part. Keep in mind that gliders file IFR and they have little ability to climb higher on demand. The FP can provide an area, just like an IFR FP or and IFR clearance for aircraft can have block airspace, or even routing at pilot's discretion.

The other issue is whether a FP is needed. For manned balloons in controlled airspace, operating under IFR, the answer is clearly yes. But again, there is allot of latitude in what a FP can specify, and what clearance might be issued.

For unmanned balloons, which is where I have more experience, the rules are quite different. And size is limited.

But again, the FAA can issue waivers, and they are done regularly for all kinds of flights. So just because the rules prohibit or do not allow, doesn't mean that a waiver could be issued to allow.

  • $\begingroup$ yes, but I do believe IFR FP is required for anything manned in class A airspace. The regs don't mention any exemptions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ One can always ask for an exemption. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ thx, SE is like a university to me. Ask the right questions and keep learning. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I wear different hats from time to time, as a research scientist, a test pilot, a university professor, and even a CFI, but one thing I would caution you about, and that is reliance on forums such as SE. While many answers may be entertaining, and quite a few might be correct, the peer review that occurs in this forum is predominantly based on popularity. In other words, with less authority that established texts and even industry peer reviewed papers. The full question is seldom addressed, and only in limited space. So take care with what you read and then rely on. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ My own above posting included, as I addressed only part of the question. Even with the editing, it is only a partial, informal, coverage of your question. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 22:48

I'm not sure if this is considered a duplicate question, but two previous answers appear to answer this question.

This previous answer partially answers your question, "Do hot air balloon pilots file flight plans?"

As for skydiving, you must remain in VFR with visual reference with the ground before skydiver exits. Is skydiving in IMC legal and safe?

I need to look it up but, I'm guessing a balloon in the clouds in Class A airspace might also need an altitude reporting transponder so ATC can provide separation to IFR aircraft. Nothing ruins your day like flying into a huge balloon in the clouds at 320kts in the flight levels.

  • $\begingroup$ Granted, it's probably preferable to flying into another heavier-than-air aircraft - those tend to be rather more solid. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 2:57

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