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On Saturday, June 4th, a nine year old Albuquerque boy navigated a 26-minute hot-air balloon flight solo, earning himself the title of the world's youngest hot air balloon pilot.
Bob Bradley and his two lucky beanie bear mascots launched off at 7.00 am from an isolated field in Albuquerque, amidst cheers from family and friends who had gathered since the wee hours of the morning to witness the historic event. Because Bob cannot be licensed to drive a regular hot air balloon until he turns 16, he flew a custom built ultra light version that does not fall under the same stringent piloting guidelines
While Bob, who has been flying in hot air balloons since he was four and has 30 hours of flying time under his belt, seemed quite capable of handling the solo flight, his family was not taking any chances. To ensure his safety, two other balloons - one piloted by a balloon examiner from the Federal Aviation Administration and the other, by the balloonist who helped make Bob's custom aircraft, also launched off at the same time and flew alongside.
However, there was not much to be concerned about. The young boy steered his aircraft skillfully, before landing flawlessly on a dirt road as per the original plan.
While Bob's accomplishment is amazing, it is not surprising - That's because hot air ballooning runs in Bob's family. His grandfather was an expert as are his mum and dad - Troy and Tami, who have been ballooning since they were teenagers and even won the prestigious America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race in 1998.
And that's not all - Six years prior to that Troy Bradley and the late Richard Abruzzo, set a record for flying a hot air balloon from North America to Africa. In addition to that Troy, who is also a hot air balloon instructor, holds several dozen other world records. However, given the fact that he did not navigate his first solo flight until he was 14, we have a sneaky feeling that the younger Bradley is going to outdo his father's achievements, pretty soon.
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