Our pilot Thomas Hook took his racer balloon to a school visit in Sheffield. About 70 children at Arbourthorne Community Primary School enjoyed a day of discovery and fun. They learnt how the burner works and how it lifts the balloon envelope.
Every year we receive requests from schools for our hot air balloon to stop by for a visit. When we have a pilot available for such an event, it always turns into a fun and meaningful experience for everybody involved.
Racer Balloon Versus 12 Passengers Virgin Balloon
This year, it was Tom’s turn to talk to the children at Arbourthorne about the science of hot air balloons. As Tom takes part in ballooning competitions, his racer balloon was ready for action. Many of our pilots used to participate in major ballooning competitions earlier in their career. Tom still does this when his schedule allows.
Displaying this smaller balloon on his visit came as a much appreciated bonus. Tom could show the children how it inflates. Using the racer also helped him demonstrate, without launching, the principle by which hot air balloons lift.
He explained the difference between our big Virgin balloons and the racer:
“The passenger balloon I fly is 300,000 cubic feet which carries the pilot plus 12 passengers in total. This large air mass is required to lift in what can sometimes be a total load of over 2 tonnes in weight.
The racer balloon I took to the school is a lot smaller in comparison. It measures 77,000 cubic feet and stands at half the height too. It can carry the pilot and two others. But is designed to go up and down very quickly – hence its slim oval shape and its petit design.”
On most school visits, our pilots bring our Virgin big passengers baskets only, for a number of reasons. Not all of them, as we mentioned, own a racer, as they no longer participate in competitions. But there is also a safety reason involved. As Tom says:
“To stand a large commercial balloon up in a built up area around a school can be difficult. However the racer balloon is easier to manoeuvre. Given the ground conditions after what can only be said to be a wet and grim weather, the field wasn’t accessible for such a heavy balloon to be used.”
Spreading Love For Hot Air Ballooning
Despite the grim wet weather, Tom’s school visit was a success. The photos taken at the event show how fascinated children and their parents were with his demonstration. You don’t get to see a hot air balloon inflate over the tethered basket too often in town.
As it was Tom’s first school visit as a Virgin Balloons pilot, we asked him how he enjoyed it. He said:
“The school visit was so much fun! I have a passion for demonstrating balloons to the younger generation, to hopefully inspire and encourage them to get involved with hot air balloons.”
He also talked about why he loves flying in the area:
“The landscape encapsulates both the city and the natural beauty of the English country side. We can see the Peak District on all of our Sheffield flights!”
Learning About Aviation And Weather
The Sheffield based school invited our Virgin pilot over as part of their events around means of transport, aviation and weather. Earlier in 2019, they organised visits to East Midlands Airport and Aeropark. A school representative explained:
“We were discussing ways to travel and visit places around the world and the different weather we may see when we get there.”
Another Virgin Balloons pilot, Mark Shemilt, is preparing for his second visit at Chandlings Prep School in Oxfordshire later this month. His 2018 visit here proved such a success that they extended the invitation personally to Mark for 2019.
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