Piloting a hot-air balloon is one of contemporary life's greatest challenges. The romance of ballooning attracts hundreds of new pilots every year and just like regular aircraft pilots; balloon pilots must meet certain federal requirements for certification. Balloon pilots are licensed by the FAA and must pass written and in-flight tests. The written exam covers federal aviation regulations, meteorology and general ballooning rules. The minimum age for licensing is 16. Just as with airplane pilots, balloon pilots must also qualify with hours flown. Private pilots must have 10 hours of flight time, including one-hour solo. Commercial pilots need 35 hours of flight time and must pass an additional exam and check flight. Every two years, all pilots have to renew their ratings by passing a Biennial Flight Review administered by a commercial balloon pilot.
There was a total of 1019 balloons registered for Balloon Fiesta 2000, including 992 hot-air balloons, 90 Special Shapes, and 27 gas balloons. A total of 1252 pilots registered for the event, representing Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America. Of the 27 gas balloons registered for the America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race, only 10 were able to participate due to prevailing weather conditions during the launch window. Countries represented at the 5th America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race included: Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, and the United States.
Chase crews make up the single largest segment of dedicated participants. The 2000 event welcomed 3,480 chase crew members of all ages, from all walks of life. Depending on the size of the balloon, there are usually from four to eight people on the ground crew.