MILFORD — Robert Sparks, known as the "Charles Lindbergh of Ballooning," came to Delaware Valley Middle School on June 1 to demonstrate the skills that have made him world-renown.
He's been featured in Sports Illustrated and Popular Mechanics for his contributions to the "lighter-than-air community" over his nearly half a century of experience operating, and designing, hot-air balloons and blimps. He talked to students about the importance of team work, and the real-life application of concepts they've learned throughout the school year.
Sparks, 81, holds nine world records, including for two trans-Atlantic flight attempts in a hybrid gas and hot air balloon. He's flown in the currents over 37 countries and 49 states. He's the only hot air balloonist to fly over all five Great Lakes, and to serve as a consultant to seven countries for drafting aviation guidelines.
For the DV demonstration he partnered with Ray and Maureen Chase of Balloon Chase Adventures, the oldest ballooning company in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Sparks is also a master of presentation, as the sixth graders discovered. After a slide show, they entered an actual balloon envelope to see and feel the fabric. The excited youngsters asked endless questions, rapid-fire.
Some helped set two small inflated fabric balloons aloft. One was made of Kapton, an amber fiber specially designed by NASA to withhold drastic temperature changes.
Sparks got his start by building his own balloon. Ever since the's gone where the wind takes him. The students were happy that he landed with them for a spell.
Photos by Frances Ruth Harris