In the United States, a pilot of a hot air or gas balloon must have a pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The certificate 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”. All United States aircraft, including hot air and gas balloons, must be registered with the FAA. N-Numbers compare to vehicle license plate numbers. Each one is unique and must be assigned to a specific aircraft. If you are curious as to the number of aircraft registered in New Mexico at any time, you can query the FAA Registry online anytime. Click this link to query the listings for New Mexico, Bernalillo County, etc. The FAA database is updated daily during Federal workdays.
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. 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.