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8-Year-Old Boy Becomes Youngest Person to Pilot Hot-Air Balloon Solo

[Aug. 27, 2020: Jason Duaine Hahn]

© Provided by People 11Alive J.T. Head

One fearless fourth grader from Georgia has just broken a world record in a hot-air balloon.

Eight-year-old J.T. Head piloted a hot-air balloon for 20 minutes on July 10, WXIA. The ride was just enough for him to break the world record for the youngest person ever to solo pilot one of the aircraft. The record was previously held by then-9-year-old Bobby Bradley.

According to the outlet, J.T. — who is now 9 years old — flew 400 feet over Sautee Valley in Georgia all by himself. He was able to accomplish the feat thanks to his father, Tarp Head, who owns a hot-air balloon company.

"My dad owns a hot-air balloon company, so I got really interested in hot-air balloons, and so I decided that I wanted to do a solo flight one day," J.T. told WXIA.

"He’s done quite a bit of preparation for years," Tarp added of his son.

J.T. told the station that beating the hot-air balloon record has been on his mind since he was 4 years old. When he touched down after his record-breaking flight, he called Bradley, who broke the record in 2011. A short time later, Bradley sent J.T. a message.

"[Bobby] wrote J.T. a note," Tarp recalled, "and [it] said, 'Well, you did it. You told me you would do it, and you - I guess you've done it now.' "

Before going on his flight, J.T. said he did a lot of prep work to make sure everything went to plan.

"You have to be really prepared!" exclaimed Head, describing the importance of that practices. "'Cause you have to know what all the handles and buttons do, like some turn on the propane tank and some turn on the burner."

RELATED: Pilot Thrown from Hot Air Balloon in Rough Landing with 7 People Injured in Resulting Crash

But aside from finally achieving the record, J.T. said the highlight of the experience was the view he had all to himself.

"I saw the sun setting. I saw a lot of cows," he recalled. "My favorite thing was probably seeing the back of Yonah Mountain."

RELATED VIDEO: Hot Air Balloon Crash in Wyoming Reportedly Leaves At Least 12 People Injured

While he has a knack for piloting hot-air balloons, J.T. also has his sights on other goals.

"Probably play pro-league soccer," J.T. told WXIA while laughing. "I might fly more balloons."

He added: "I know that I'm gonna go higher."

This Brighter Side of News post courtesy of People Magazine at


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Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a licensed hot air baloon pilot, this article from Outdoor Troop provides some good information to start.

You can find a list of hot air baloon pilot training schools here.



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