Last month, an 8-year-old boy from Cleveland, Georgia soared 400 feet into the air while piloting a hot air balloon. The feat made the fourth-grader, J.T. Head, the youngest person to ever accomplish the feat.
“My dad owns a hot air balloon company, so I got really interested in hot air balloons,” J.T. told 11 Alive. “I decided that I wanted to do a solo flight one day.”
“One day” came much earlier than many would have expected. However, it’s not a complete surprise considering that J.T.’s dad, Tarp Head, has been piloting balloons himself for 45 years. His mother, Desiree Head, has also flown balloons for 30 years.
J.T. told Forsyth County News he found inspiration for his solo flight from watching his dad pilot.
“I saw my daddy doing it, and I know if he could do it alone, then I can do it alone,” J.T. said. “I knew I had enough training, that it was my turn.”
Fourth-Grader Breaks Records
Due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, J.T. was too young to fly a full-size balloon. For J.T.’s solo flight, family friend David Bristol created an ultralight aircraft that only holds one person and requires no certification.
J.T. trained for his first flight with the help of his parents and Bristol. He practiced his pilot skills by operating a 15-foot remote control hot air balloon and using a flight simulator. Once he felt ready, his parents picked an ideal day for J.T. to officially fly, making sure there weren’t strong winds.
During his solo flight, J.T. traveled about a mile and a half in 20 minutes. Along the way, his parents followed along from below.
“What I like the most is probably getting to go in the air,” J.T. said to Forsyth County News. “It’s fun to get into the air instead of having to stay on the ground all the time.”
J.T.’s full interview with 11 Alive can be seen below: