On July 10, when the Cleveland, Georgia boy was still 8, he soared 400 feet into the air over the Sautee Valley, near Helen.

CLEVELAND, Ga. — A north Georgia 4th grader is soaring to new heights, becoming the youngest person to solo pilot a hot air balloon.

“I’m in fourth grade and I’m 9 years old,” JT Head, now a world record holder, proudly told 11Alive.

On July 10, when the Cleveland, Georgia boy was still 8, he soared 400 feet into the air over the Sautee Valley, near Helen.

Learning those ins and outs isn’t anything new for Head. In fact, it’s part of the family business. His dad Tarp has been piloting balloons himself for 45 years.

“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,” he explained.

“He’s done quite a bit of preparation for years,” Head’s dad added, describing how they built him a scale model remote control hot air balloon.

“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.”

During that summer flight, Head traveled about a mile and a half in 20 minutes on that first solo flight.

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

And when he landed, he had a call to make – to Bobby Bradley, who broke the record at 9 years old, back in 2011 in New Mexico.

“When I was four, I said that I would beat his record,” Head recalled.

“(Bobby) wrote JT a note and said, ‘well, you did it. You told me you would do it, and you – I guess you’ve done it now’.”

So, now, what’s Head’s ultimate goal?

“Probably play pro-league soccer,” he said with a chuckle. “I might fly more balloons.”

“I know that I’m gonna go higher,” he promised. 

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