By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Fourth and fifth graders at Gainesville’s Robert E. Lee Elementary school were able to see a hot-air balloon up close as balloonist Jeff Lavender brought the hot air balloon “Teenage Dream” to the school Thursday.
The event was held in conjunction with the upcoming “The Sky’s the Limit” balloon festival benefiting the North Texas Medical Center Foundation.
A practice fire drill initiated by Lee’s assistant principal John Martin successfully assembled the Lee students on the grassy hill on the west side of the campus where students had a great view of the balloon activity. Lee teachers, staff and Gainesville ISD superintendent Brasher were on hand to greet the excited students. NTMC officials were on also on hand to view the event and assist Lavender as needed.
Lavender, who has been flying hot air balloons since 1996, told the students that hot air balloons have been around since the late 1700s and are the world’s oldest form of passenger aviation.
This is the second year the Bedford resident has brought his balloon to a Gainesville ISD campus. Last year, the balloonist visited Gainesville High School.
Lavender said he enjoyed bringing his love of flying to the students and hoped that his demonstration would instill in the students an interest in hot air ballooning.
He told the students that although it is possible to get a learner’s permit to fly at the age of 14, a pilot’s license is not available until age 16.
“The balloon I brought today is my daughter Avery’s balloon and she is only 16. She hopes to have her pilot’s license soon,” he said.
Lavender said that to be a successful hot air balloonist, it is important to grasp many aspects of flying which included principles of science, physics and meteorology.
According to the website “howstuffworks,” the basis scientific principle behind hot air balloons is that warmer air rises because it is lighter than cool air due to a lower mass per unit. Each cubic foot of hot air in a balloon can lift seven grams in weight. Therefore, to lift 1,000 pounds, 65,000 cubic feet of hot air is required.
Lavender said that the air must be reheated while the balloon is in the air to keep it rising.
“A pilot can reheat the air when needed by firing a burner that is positioned at the open end located at the base of the balloon,” he said.
Wicker baskets are also normally used to carry passengers because it is sturdy, flexible and lightweight. The flexibility of the basket helps to absorb the sometimes brunt force of the landing.
Due to the fickleness of the wind on Thursday, Lavender was not able to fully launch the balloon at Lee. However, the students were treated to a “puff and fluff” demonstration in which the balloon is filled half way while resting on its side on the ground. The magnitude of its size was evident even only partially inflated.
On his card, Lavender has included the words of “The Balloonists Prayer.”
“The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that God has joined in your laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”
By CATHY MOUNCE
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