FLIGHT SCHOOL: Natchez Middle School aviation students learn through hot air balloon tether rides

Published 5:21 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Approximately 40 Natchez middle schoolers had their aviation class in the air on Thursday morning with hot air balloon tether rides.

The students in Elizabeth Greer’s class are in a special engineering program called “Project Lead the Way.” This month, they’re studying aviation.

The class began with Pilot Kurt Vitense testing students’ knowledge of what they’ve learned so far about hot air balloons. His crew started to inflate the balloon envelope by blowing cold air from a high-powered fan through it.

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When he heats up that air using the burners, it starts to float, Vitense explained.

“Who remembers why that is?” he asked the class.

Several students chimed in with the answer.

“Density,” they said.

Last year, Vitense inflated his balloon at Robert Lewis Middle School to demonstrate how hot air is less dense than the air outside the balloon. This year, the students were able to fly in a tethered balloon ride. This was optional to the students, of course.

“I’m afraid of heights,” said Brandon McDowell, one of the students.

“So am I, and I’m a pilot,” Vitense said.

Other students were on the tips of their toes and smiling at the chance to ride a hot air balloon.

“I’m so excited,” said Jasmine Ashcraft before climbing into the basket.