The Real Balloon Boy: 9-Year-Old Hopes to Set Hot Air Record

Parents argue that third-grader Bobby Bradley's solo flight will be safe.

April 20, 2011— -- He's the real balloon boy.

Bobby Bradley, a third grader from Albuquerque, N.M, plans to set a new world record this weekend, becoming the youngest person to fly solo in a hot air balloon.

"I've been flying since I was 4, so I've had a lot of time to train and I've always wanted to solo," Bobby, who is 9, told the Associated Press.

Despite a fear of heights, Bobby has spent much of his life in the basket of balloons, and has racked up over 25 hours at the controls of balloons owned by his father, a professional balloon pilot.

Ballooning and breaking records are his family's business. His father, Troy Bradley, has set 58 world records and along with a partner in 1992 became the first person to fly from the United States to Africa in a balloon.

A young boy in a balloon is, for many, reminiscent of the 2009 "balloon boy" hoax, in which the country sat rapt by televised images of a makeshift mylar balloon believed to be carrying a 6-year-old Colorado boy named Falcon Heene. The boy was later found hiding in his family's garage and his father, Richard Heene, eventually admitted it was a hoax.

But for Bobby and his parents, ballooning is no joke. Bobby is a fourth generation balloonist and his parents, both professionals, know something about the tragic cost of flying. Richard Abruzzo, Troy Bradley's partner on the Africa flight, died last year in a balloon race in Europe.

The minimum age to pilot most hot air balloons is 14 under federal law. Bobby plans to skirt those regulations by flying a 150-pound ultralight balloon, for which there are no Federal Aviation Administration age requirements.

His father is confident that Bobby, who will likely fly for about a half hour over three miles at altitudes as high as 1,000 feet, is up for the challenge.

'He's got ballooning in his blood," Tory Bradley told "He's heard us talking about it and has been in balloons his entire life. He has more than 25 hours piloting time. I've never had a student solo with more than seven or eight hours, so he has more than three times what's normal."

Troy said every safety precaution is being taken. Bobby will take additional fuel on board with him, but only burn about half of what he has. He will be followed by a chase car on the ground, monitored by a spotter balloon in the air, and in constant radio contact.

9-Year-Old Intends To Set Ballooning Record

The flight will occur just south of Alburquerque in the desert far from power lines and buildings.

Troy does not recommend solo ballooning for every kid, but defends the sport's safety.

"I'm in no way promoting this for other kids," he said. "Bobby has grown up in balloons, he's been training for years. He's well versed in needs of a pilot."

"But when you look at it," he added, "skateboards are more dangerous. Every year kids are seriously injured, paralyzed or killed on skateboards or racing dirt bikes. There are so many other things out there. Ballooning is pretty safe. People just don't know how it works."

The Associated Press contributed to this report