Three hot air balloon pilots and their crew met at Page Middle School to share their love of hot air ballooning with sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
The balloon regatta committee prepared curriculum information for schools and pupils studied the science and history of ballooning for a week before November 4, when each class took turns on the playground to hear the pilots talk about their balloon and how the hot air balloon works. .
The history of the hot air balloon began in the 18th century in France when the Montgolfier brothers developed the first hot air balloon. The science is quite simple: a hot air balloon floats because the air inside the fabric envelope is heated. The warmer air in the balloon is lighter than the rest of the air around it, and when the air is warm enough, the balloon floats above the ground. Modern balloons use propane to heat the air.
This reporter was a crew member of the balloon Floating Awaysis, owned by Greg and Susan Lindsey of Safford, Arizona. Floating Awaysis features a black saguaro on one side and palm trees on the other against a colorful background of yellow, turquoise, orange and red. Brian, a local Page resident, and I were the main team members. Brian’s daughter, Ainsley, joined us at school.
The eighth graders were the first to step out onto the field and learn about the hot air balloon and saw the balloon fill with hot air and go from a ground position to an upright position.
For many children, it was the first time they had seen a hot air balloon.
Susan, a former primary school teacher, loves working with schools and children to teach them the history and science of hot air ballooning. Greg showed the kids where the three propane tanks were and how to light them and light the burner pilot lights.
Every time he lit the burners to heat up the balloons, many children would back away. Susan said to me, “You know, it’s usually the boys who are the most likely to walk away from the burners.
The turn of the seventh graders was then to see the ball. They learned to control a balloon in flight by blowing hot air out of the top of the balloon to descend to the ground, rotating the balloon with side vents, or lighting the burners to ascend.
They learned that the Floating Awaysis is so large that eight average-sized homes can fit inside the envelope and that each of the two burners can heat 180 homes.
Ainsley is in seventh grade and she has returned to school with her class to participate in other hot air balloon activities at school. Brian was happy that Ainsley had agreed to help prepare the ball for the demonstration. She had worked on a balloon when it needed to be put away, but neither she nor her father had helped prepare it for flight until today. She was able to stand in the gondola, or basket, as her classmates looked on.
Sixth graders were the third and last class to discover the ball. A young man, the tallest in his class, quietly watched his classmates approach the gondola from a distance. I was also tall at his age. I asked the young man if he was bullied at school because he was so tall. He said he did. He smiled when I told him it was okay because the advantage is he can see what’s going on without having to be in the crowd of smaller people.
Sixth graders got to see how a balloon is deflated and stowed away and became part of the crew.
The tall youngster was shown how to work the crown line, a rope connected to the top of the ball to prevent side-to-side movement and help stretch the ball as air exits the top of the ball.
He and another crew member held the crown line while the other sixth graders helped push the air from the top by “squeezing” the envelope and moving together up the envelope , turning the inflated balloon into a long length of fabric, empty of air.
The student team helped stuff the ball into a large canvas bag for storage and looked like a long, colorful caterpillar was placed back into a cocoon.
When asked what the best part of the day was, many kids said “being outside,” “hearing the sound of the burners,” or seeing the colorful balloons. The hot air balloon “gods” smiled as all enjoyed a perfect day for ballooning.