December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!



Happy New Year from Long Beach, CA! Just catching up with things on the days off. One of the great things about my job is that even when we're working, it's still fun. For example this week while I was training, we flew exposure over the Greater Los Angeles area. In between the work of working on procedures, I was able to check out the scenery and take a few pictures to share. The highlights include going by the Hollywood sign, cruising down Hollywood Boulevard, and flying over LAX at 1500 feet through the VFR corridor. Now I just need to jump on the train one of these days off and head up there to check it all out from the ground. Always a new adventure to be had!

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas from warm and sunny San Diego! With the weather so nice outside, it sure doesn't feel like Christmas Eve. As you can see, we don't have a tree but we do have a mast. It reminds me of a Christmas tree every time we raise it. Now with the lights, it really does look like one.

We have the next couple of days off for the holiday with the highlight being our Christmas dinner tomorrow. Since we aren't able to spend the holiday with our friends and families, we get to spend it with the next best thing, our blimp family.
One of the many good things about this job is the camaraderie amongst the crew. It makes being away from home a lot easier especially during this time of year.

Merry Christmas to all and I hope you're staying warm!

December 21, 2007

Rainy Day Transit



We continued our journey down the coast to San Diego today. We left Santa Maria this morning under gloomy skies for our next stop in Long Beach. The transit went pretty much as planned including the anticipated heavy traffic through LA. I was riding in the van again for this transit which isn't nearly as fun as the blimp. However it does give me time to read and catch up on things. Occasionally we even pass by some interesting landmarks. One highlight on the trip today was passing by Goodyear's blimp base located in Carson, CA between Long Beach and LA along Interstate 405. As you can see in the pictures I took, the Spirit of America was at home on the mast today.

December 15, 2007

New Decals

We finished up our week in Santa Rosa on Friday and rolled on back down to Livermore, CA for the Oakland Raider game on Sunday. On our transit down, we were getting plenty of looks from the traffic on the highways as we debuted the new decals on the trucks and trailers. I think they look pretty sharp and definitely draw more attention then the previous graphics did. I have some pictures I took before we left Santa Rosa below so you can judge for yourself.

December 12, 2007

Winery Visit

I took a visit on my day off to the Paradise Ridge Winery which is located within a short walking distance from the hotel. It was pretty much a ghost town there except for the workers, but it does have a nice view. Here are a few pictures I took while I was there.

Paradise Ridge Winery

December 10, 2007

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown



We arrived in Santa Rosa, located in the vast wine country of Sonoma County on Saturday and will be spending the week here. It is kind of a coming home for the Snoopy Blimp as Santa Rosa was the home of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. From my understanding, this is the first time Snoopy 2 has made its way up here. On my day off today, I made my way to the Charles M. Schulz Museum to get a better appreciation for the man who created Charlie Brown and friends.

It was a short walk to the museum which is located right next to the ice arena he owned and had breakfast at every morning. Sparky, as he was nicknamed, was an avid hockey player who played every Tuesday night with friends and hosted a yearly tournament of NHL retirees. In the museum, there were a limited amount of areas where they allowed photography, but I still got quite a few pictures. The highlights include the giant mosaic of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football that is made of different Peanuts comic strip tiles and the various statues on the grounds. The studio areas had numerous original comic strips with information about Sparky and how he related his life to his work. In an interview I watched with him in the theater, he said that he is the only person that drew or came up with story ideas for the comic strip in all of its 50 years. According to him, all anyone has to do is read his comics to get to know him. After watching a Charlie Brown special that happened to be on TV tonight, I was really surprised how much I could relate to what I saw today at the museum.

Needless to say, reading comic strips all day is one of the best museum visit experiences I've ever had. Seeing the different strips through all of the years, you can see how truly timeless the Peanuts characters are.

December 5, 2007

Catching up in Livermore, CA

Well we've been keeping busy here in the Bay Area doing exposure and the football game this past Sunday. On Saturday I took the ship off the mast from the left seat for the first time. We did a couple landings before the wind began to pick up a little more then we were comfortable with having me in the seat for. I did it again today too for a couple of landings in more calm conditions which has me feeling more like a real airship pilot. The training is coming along, but I still need a lot more landings to give me the experience I need in different wind and static weight conditions.

On one of my days off earlier this week I went back to downtown San Francisco for the day with a couple of the guys. My pictures from the day walking around by the bay can be found here. Some of the sites I saw this time around were the Chapel at Fisherman's Wharf, Forbes Island (world's only floating island and restaurant) and the ships at Hyde Pier.

November 29, 2007

San Diego Zoo



I'm in Santa Maria tonight on our way to Livermore, CA tomorrow but yesterday a few of us visited the San Diego Zoo on our day off. One of the crew guys has some connections there that allowed us to get up close with some of the animals. Its not often that you get kissed by a sea lion, licked by a cheetah and pet a wolf, especially all in one day. It was really neat and definitely a rare opportunity. The most interesting fun fact I learned was that both the cheetah and wolf have a companion dog that they live with which allows them to be more calm around people. Basically they see the dog is friendly with the people and they imitate them.

I've included below a link to all of the pictures I took plus our line pilot Mandy's pictures. There was a ton to see there which lived up to my expectations. It blows away any zoo I've ever been to thats for sure! It was a fun day for all that we will be sure to remember for a long time.


San Diego Zoo

November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from San Diego! We had the day off today and had a crew cookout for Thanksgiving with all of the trimmings. I must say it was nice to be able to be outside in the nice weather rather then in the cold for the holiday. There was plenty of food so I still ended up stuffing myself which is really what Thanksgiving is all about.
Back to work tomorrow though doing aerial display over the busy malls and interstates in the area on Black Friday. Hopefully I'll manage to get in a couple more hours of training while we do it. Over the past week we've been focusing on the traffic pattern and approaches to landings. Its a lot different then landing an airplane especially since there are quite a few variables involved including your static weight (how light or heavy you are), the wind, the area available to maneuver and the position of the crew to name a few. We don't usually land on runways so you have to choose a suitable landing area in the field adjacent to where the mast is set up. Luckily there is a lot of room available at Brown Field where we are at. Needless to say the more experience I get doing approaches and landings, the more confidence I will develop, making me a better airship pilot. Every flight gets me a little closer to achieving my goal.

November 15, 2007

Days off in Long Beach

Well I spent the past couple days off hanging out down by the beach. I took the bus down there and walked around Belmont Shores on Monday along the walking path and around the pier. Then on Tuesday I walked the other way down towards downtown Long Beach. In fact, I walked all the way to the feature tourist attraction in Long Beach, the Queen Mary. It was an interesting walking tour around the ship that also included a tour of the Russian Submarine Scorpio and an exhibit dedicated to memorabilia from many of the most popular spy shows and movies ever. They had everything from Dr No's prop tarantula to Maxwell Smart's shoe phone to the Man from UNCLE's pen communicator. It was a great exhibit but unfortunately they did not allow pictures or video to be taken. Fortunately I have pictures of everything else if you click on the album below. Also it looked like they were filming something on location on the boat, but I never ended up finding out what it was. Just business as usual for them out here in the LA area.
Speaking of Hollywood, the only part of the tour I didn't like was the Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary tour. It could have been creepy and interesting on its own visiting areas of the ship where tragedy stuck it during its many years of service. Unfortunately, they "Hollywooded it up" with special effects and lighting along with a tour guide who couldn't act. It was more funny then anything else. The only highlight is that you get to see some extra areas of the ship like the pool and boiler room that are normally off limits.

November 10, 2007

Hanging out in Long Beach

We've been in Long Beach the past couple of days. So far we've had a few guest visits and provided aerial coverage for the UCLA/Arizona Football game today. Long Beach Airport is an extremely busy airport with a lot of helicopters and flight training going on in addition to the commercial and corporate jets. Boeing also has two facilities at the airport. They use to manufacture 717's there and still manufacture C-17's for the US Air Force. One of these C-17's did a flyby before leaving the airport yesterday on a test flight. I was fortunate enough to get this great picture of it on take off and a video of the low pass.

video

November 6, 2007

"Welcome to the Rock!"



I spent my day off yesterday on the streets of San Francisco. I took the 45 minute train ride into downtown from the station thats only about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is by far the best public transportation available on the west coast. Not quite knowing where I was going, I managed to walk around the busy financial district while I got my bearings on where I was. I then proceeded to walk down along the piers toward Fisherman's Wharf. After walking around Pier 39 and visiting the sea lions, I made my way to wait for the boat to Alcatraz.

I spent a couple hours over there enjoying the sites. The highlight of the visit was the prison of course. The tour is supported by audio. They give you headphones to listen to former guards and prisoners discuss their experiences on Alcatraz as they guide you around the facility. The most interesting story was that of the escape of three prisoners who dug their way out through the air vents and escaped up to the roof. The made dummy heads to put in their bunks which were discovered the next morning during roll call. They were assumed to have drowned swimming across the bay during their escape but their bodies were never found.

After spending my time on "The Rock," I took the boat back and walked down to Pier 45. I took a look around and took a few pictures before stopping at Sabella & LaTorre for dinner. I then jumped on a very crowded streetcar back to the BART station and jumped on the train back to the hotel. Overall, a nice way to spend a day off taking in the many sites of San Francisco.

November 4, 2007

Hello, San Francisco

Well I was back in the air yesterday and today up over the Bay Area. We did a full tour flying exposure over Oakland, the Bay Bridge, Downtown San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf, by Alcatraz and around the Golden Gate Bridge. It was truly an amazing way to see the city. Training with such a great view doesn't make it seem like work at all! I took a bunch of pictures from the air. Click on the slide show below to see the entire album of pictures.

October 30, 2007

Welcome to California


Well we made it to California on Sunday and now have two days off in San Bernardino. Its my first time in California and was kind of a lack luster entrance since Southern California pretty much looks the same as Arizona or Nevada does out in the desert surrounded by mountains. I did see one cool thing driving through the mountain pass though, hundreds of giant windmills which generate the electric power for surrounding cities. The rest of the pictures from the transit can be found here.
Tomorrow we head up towards Oakland for our tv event this weekend. We haven't seen much evidence of the wild fires around here other then the big firefighting airplanes that occasionally take off from the airport. Going more north though, we may end up seeing more of the devastation first hand.

October 28, 2007

The Desert Southwest

We continued our transit west today as we entered the desert southwest of the country. We drove almost 700 miles to make it to Phoenix in what was the longest transit day I've been apart of so far. With scenery like this though, it actually went by kind of fast. Luckily we transitioned through two time zones so we picked up a couple extra hours along the way. It is days like this that come to mind when people ask if we pack up the blimp in a trailer and drive it to the next city. If only it was that easy! Of course, it wouldn't make this job nearly as fun either.

October 27, 2007

Catching Up: Windy Days, the Space Center and Heading West

Well after a few extra days in Houston, we are finally heading west. The reason for our delay began earlier this week when the winds in Houston were very gusty. In conditions like that, its better to just leave it on the stick and try another day. Then since we were scheduled to cover the San Diego game this weekend, we were in limbo while decisions were made as to where to have the game due to the wild fires. With Houston as a possible alternative site, we stuck around to see if the game would come to us. Finally since the game looked like it will be played in San Diego, we began our transit to the west coast today. We'll be overnight here in Fort Stockton, TX tonight and then continue to forge ahead towards California tomorrow. To summarize the week, you just never know what's going to happen. The weather and other circumstances can put a wrench in the best made plans.

On one of the days off in Houston, we went over and checked out the Johnson Space Center since it was right down the road. I took a number of pictures while I was there. I did notice that the tour was changed slightly since my visit six years ago to no longer include the current Mission Control and International Space Station Control Centers. I'm assuming it is probably due to security concerns. We did get to check out the mock up room which includes full size replicas of the shuttle and space station which NASA uses for training and to test out new equipment and scenarios. I found that addition to the tour particularly interesting to see. Click on the album below to check out all of the pictures.

NASA Space Center- Houston

October 21, 2007

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We transited to Houston, TX on Friday which was a beautiful flight. We had the opportunity to see some interesting landmarks along the way. First was the Sam Houston Memorial which is just randomly located along I-45 at least 60 miles from Houston. We saw this huge statue along the highway and had to go in for a closer look. With the help of the binoculars we could see it was Sam Houston, a former president, senator and governor of Texas. The statue is about 70 feet tall.

Next we stumbled upon another monument that was even more impressive down in South Houston. It was a huge column that turned out to be the San Jacinto Monument. It commemorates the battle that was fought there that eventually won Texas its independence. It turns out that the monument is the tallest column monument in the world at 570 feet tall and is 15 feet taller then the Washington Monument. Also there on the grounds is an old battleship, Battleship Texas.

Finally before landing for the day, we flew over the NASA Space Center for a while and snapped a few pictures. They don't seem to have as many rockets outside as I remember when I visited it last. Also there is a large arrow in the middle of the field that I have no idea what it is used for. Radar testing perhaps? We just saw a couple of NASA guys flying their remote controlled airplane by it so maybe its not in use anymore.

Click on the slide show below for a closer look at all of the pictures.

October 16, 2007

Transit to Texas

Just an update to my travels. We finished up our time in Kansas City on Monday and began our trek to Houston, TX. Last night we stopped in Muskogee,OK. It was my first time in Oklahoma and it was very much what I expected to see on our drive through, a lot of cattle and fields. We are now in Terrell, TX which is about 20 miles east of Dallas, TX. Our next stop will be our destination of Houston where we will be doing tv work for the Houston Texans football game on Sunday. This transit is just a warm up for the long road west to California after this weekend though where Snoopy 2 spends the rest of the winter season.
While we were in Kansas City last week, I did take a few pictures from the air during our exposure flight over downtown. There are also a few pictures I took of the ship as the sun was setting over the city. There are also a few fun facts I would like to share about Kansas City while I was there:
1. Gates BBQ is the best Kansas City Style BBQ in all of the city
2. Folgers Coffee has a plant located downtown near the airport and
you can smell it in the air depending on the wind direction
3. The Plaza was the first shopping center in the world to
accommodate people arriving by car
4. B-25's and other WWII aircraft were built just north of Downtown
Airport during the war (see picture)
5. AMC Movie Theaters have a huge office building downtown
6. The Railroad industry is still very alive in KC

October 12, 2007

Days off in KC

Well I must say I've enjoyed my days off this week. Last night I went and saw one of my favorite bands, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, who just happened to be in town. I had a feeling they might be near by so I checked the tour website and was pleasantly surprised. It was actually one of the coolest venues I've been to with the stage outside next to some railroad tracks in the middle of the industrial side of town. It was yet another great show by Roger and the guys. No matter how many times I see them, its always a unique experience. Getting to shake Steve Larson's (lead guitar)hand was a definite highlight at the end of the night.
Today me and a couple of the guys went and checked out the Arabia Steamboat Museum in the City Market area. It was actually really cool. The Arabia was a steamboat on the Missouri River back in the 1850's that sank with hundreds of tons of goods on board. Looking at all of the artifacts that they uncovered during their dig, I can see why they call the steamboats of the day the "Walmart of the 1800's." There were literally hundreds and thousands of goods displayed. It looked like it was a huge store full of everything from shoes and clothing to saws and axes. You can see the pictures by clicking here.
In addition to seeing the largest collection of artifacts from that time, they also tell the story of how the museum and the dig came to be. It all began with a father, his two sons and another business partner with a dream of finding buried treasure. After a lot of research and hard work, they turned it into reality. Hearing a tale like that helps to restore your belief in the American Dream. If you can dream it and are willing to put the work into it, almost anything is possible.

October 10, 2007

The Golden Age of Aviation

While the blimp was up doing some exposure flying over the Kansas City area today, we went over to the Airline History Museum located on the field there at Kansas City Downtown Airport to kill sometime. They don't have a lot of airplanes there but the ones they do are priceless. The main attraction there is the restored Constellation that sits on the ramp . It is absolutely beautiful and takes you back in time to when it was a luxury to fly on an airliner. Inside the museum also had some great artifacts including old uniforms, logbooks, and promotional items from a number of airlines from days past, especially TWA who had strong roots in Missouri. I've included a number of pictures from the museum below.
Another fun fact about the Airline History Museum is that actor and aviation enthusiast, John Travolta was there as the guest of honor this past Saturday. We were hoping he might come over to say hi when he got there but he didn't. According to the watchman that was on, he came in his smaller business jet rather then the 707. It was reported that in addition to the $500 a plate dinner, one woman shelled out $25,000 to dance with Travolta. All proceeds went to the museum.

October 8, 2007

Picture Perfect Day

It was a picture perfect day today in Kansas City. We ended up pushing back our start time till afternoon due to the weather here this morning, but it was worth the wait. I went up and flew some exposure over downtown for a few hours. It was a really smooth day with very little wind or thermals. When we returned to the airport, we had another event for Metlife employees to come and see the ship. It was a smaller group this time. They had the opportunity to see the ship take off and land while they were there which everyone seemed to enjoy.
I took this picture from the airport just before sunset this evening. With the ship above downtown, I thought it looked kind of like a postcard.

October 7, 2007

Weekend Recap

Well in Blimpin' there is no rest on the weekends. Yesterday we spent the day doing what is nicknamed "Show and Tell" for some Metlife employees that reside in the Kansas City area. Basically the visitors get to get up close with the blimp, take pictures and ask us questions about it. It was a long day under the hot sun but was also a lot of fun. Everyone I had the opportunity to meet was very nice and had a genuine interest in the airship.
Today we had a TV event providing aerial coverage for the Kansas City Chiefs game. It was my first time helping rig the camera to the airship. It actually takes a lot less time then one would think to attach the camera. Once the camera is attached, it is pretty much business as usual. The pilot and camera man takeoff and head towards the game till its over or something causes the airship to return early. Today the weather was the cause for the ship to return a little bit earlier then planned. It was good timing too. We had just enough time to get the ship down and detach the camera before a really strong downpour came through over the city and the airport.

October 5, 2007

Training Watch Complete


Yesterday I completed my pressure watch training. The crew chief went out there with me at the start of the shift and ensured I had the knowledge required to finish the watch on my own. After going over the walk around, some scenarios and basic pressure theory, I was left to finish the watch on my own. Other then the wind keeping me on my toes with the ballast, I had a fairly easy watch. Now that I am signed off to do watch, I can concentrate more on learning to fly the airship.

I took the above picture while on watch. Behind Snoopy 2 is the Airline History Museum which is located on the Kansas City Downtown Airport grounds. They have a number of old airliners on the ramp there including a Constellation and a DC-3.

October 4, 2007

Transit to Kansas City

Well it was a long day driving around 500 miles from Indianapolis to Kansas City, MO but we made it. En route we passed through St. Louis which brought back some memories of my days there during training at Trans States. Hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with some of the guys that are still living there while I'm nearby here in KC for the next week or so.
Tonight I experienced my first light landing from the ground crew perspective. During a light landing the pilot has to fly the airship to the ground low enough for the ropes to be grabbed by the nose lineman. The tough part is flying with power in down to the ground and then slowing up in time so the nose lineman have time to grab the ropes and assist with lowering the airship to the ground. The coordination and timing between the pilot and ground crew determines whether or not a light landing will be successful. Like with all landings, the ground crew is necessary to assist the airship in landing and to keep the ship maneuverable on the ground. However during a light landing it takes a lot more physical effort on behalf of the crew to keep the airship on the ground and under control. When I begin doing landings, I'll have a lot more appreciation for the crew's role during light landings having experienced it from their point of view.

October 2, 2007

Transit to Indianapolis



We left Cleveland this morning to start heading to Kansas City, MO. I flew again on the transit and boy was it bumpy today. The rudders and elevators are all mechanical with no autopilot, just pulleys and cables. It can get to be a real workout when you are flying through thermals all day. Those are the days when you are glad to have another pilot to switch seats with while you take a break.
I was fortunate to experience a couple of cool things today. First off, we had a cool looking biplane fly by us to get a closer look. He even did a few aerobatics for us before he continued on to where he was going. Also we heard Snoopy 1 on the radio today as we were flying along. They were leaving Indianapolis to head east while we were heading there to go west. Its probably the closest the ships will be for the rest of the year as they spend the winter on opposite coasts. Finally when we arrived in Indy, we found out that Goodyear is also in town tonight. The picture I took is of us on approach to landing with Goodyear in the pattern coming around to make their landing.

September 30, 2007

Cleveland Rocks!



Well I am finally back to my old stomping grounds in Cleveland. On the way in I couldn't help but think about the flying I did in this area. My first solo cross country to Youngstown, the old practice areas near I-80 and the many landings I did at Portage County. In the same respect, I got to see those things from a different perspective from the airship. It was like coming full circle being reminded of all of the fun flying everyone does while they are building their time to earn their ratings. I'm kind of back in that position again as I work towards my airship rating. The aircraft isn't overly complex either so its like going back to basics again as well. Just like then, there are some dues to pay along the way. However the challenge is what makes it all worthwhile in the end.
As we made our way to Lorain County Airport tonight, I also was able to experience one of the perks of the job of an airship pilot. We flew over my friend Jessie's house on our route of flight around Cleveland airspace. I've included the picture above. It was a lot of fun and really topped off a nice day of flying.

September 26, 2007

Visitting the Piper Aircraft Museum

Lock Haven, Pennsylvania was once home to one of the largest manufactures of light aircraft in the world, Piper Aircraft. Today I went to the Piper Aviation Museum located at the airport and learned all about how William Piper, Sr. built his company. It was a small museum but told the story well. It is a work in progress as they are always adding new displays. I took a number of pictures while I was there and included a link to them by clicking on the picture below. After my museum tour, I took a walk on the picturesque path that parallels the river that runs through town. After taking a few pictures along the way, I made my way downtown to The Texas Restaurant for a "Texas red hot" hot dog and some fries to wrap up my day of exploring.
We're stuck here again for weather tomorrow so I'll be doing another shift learning the watch duties. I think I have a pretty good grasp on them, but I'm hoping to pick up as much knowledge as I can from the different crewman that I'm working with. There is always something new to learn!

Lock Haven, PA 9-26-07

September 25, 2007

Transit to Lock Haven, PA



Well we started our move west to Cleveland. I spent the drive learning about the coordination between the pilot in the air and the crew chief on the ground by riding along with the crew chiefs' today. All of the logistics from the driving route to what the plan will be if the airship runs into trouble are carefully planned out and constantly updated during the transit. The airship's dependence on the crew requires the airship to have communication with the crew on the ground throughout the transit. It also helps the crew out to have an "eye in the sky" when it comes to traffic problems.
We stopped in Lock Haven, PA for the night, but the weather looks like we may be here an extra day. Lock Haven is very much a small town located in the sprawling hills of Pennsylvania. It is the home of the Piper Aviation Museum located at the airport. I am probably going to go over there tomorrow to pass some time if we end up getting canceled for weather tomorrow.

September 24, 2007

First Transit Flight

I flew on my first transit flight today going from Mansfield, MA to Soleburg Airport in New Jersey. During the flight, the visibility was so good you could see the New York skyline from about 30 or 40 miles away. The picture I took doesn't quite reflect that but trust me it was a nice view. Also we saw a number of unbelievable houses in Connecticut and New York. There was one in particular that was impressive near White Plains, NY that I took a couple pictures of. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed being up there taking them. We were in the air for over 6 hours, but it literally flew by.

September 23, 2007

Day off in Mass

Well I got a much needed day off today. I just laid low most of the day and watched football. Snoopy 2 did all of the aerial coverage for the Bills game today. It won't be long before I'll be the one flying the event.
I did manage to get my laundry done finally and grabbed a gourmet hot dog at the New England Hot Dog Company. I had an all beef hot dog with sweet red peppers, jalapeƱos and swiss cheese on it. It was no "slop dog," but it was pretty good. Tomorrow starts our trek west to Cleveland. We are going back to New Jersey and then cutting across Pennsylvania to Ohio. If the weather cooperates we should be there by Wednesday. However as we know, anything that is dependent on the weather is always subject to change.

No Sleep till Boston


Well after some more setbacks with the weather this morning, we have finally made it to Mansfield, Massachusetts. The picture at the left shows what it was like this morning when we got out to the field at 8am. It was foggy with low ceilings and eventually rained on and off for most of the morning and early afternoon. Finally around 3pm the weather started to clear up and the final decision was made to launch for Boston a while after that. It was another long day with us not getting back to the hotel until well after midnight. The real tragedy of it all is the fact that today was my day off. We were short people though since some of the guys were sent ahead yesterday before the decision was made to stay in New Jersey. I really had no choice but to help out, but I still didn't mind. I just couldn't see myself sitting there watching the other guys work. Something unique to airship work is that just because you have the day off, doesn't mean you don't have to travel or help out in someway. It kind of comes with the territory since you have to be where the airship is staying. Of course once I'm a line pilot, only one pilot flies the airship at a time so there may be some additional down time on certain days.

September 22, 2007

Rough Day

It was a long day today as we waited for maintenance to be done on the airship. Unfortunately it took longer then estimated and we were out at the field from Noon till around 10:30pm. The Pilot in Charge eventually had to call off the flight to Boston due to deteriorating weather up there tonight despite the mechanic's efforts to get the engine he was working on up and running. It was a long day but not as long as it could have been. As the Crew Chief told me, "This is about as bad as it gets." So it goes to show in the blimp business just like in almost all of aviation, no matter how hard you may work to try and make things go as planned, the weather can always spoil it. We've got an early start tomorrow so I'm off to bed. We're going to try, try again to go up to Boston.
Oh the best bit of wisdom I heard today is "Home is where your tooth brush is."

September 20, 2007

Day 2 of Watch Training


I had my second day of watch training today. It went well as I learned some more about the duties of the watch person and what needs to get done during a shift. I've especially got the hang of taking the readings on the ship each hour and the math that goes along with it when you log it.
I should just have a couple more next week and then I'll be signed off. We leave tomorrow afternoon to transit up to the Boston area for this weekend's football game. Hopefully I'll get a chance to fly again. I hear transit flying is a lot more fun then exposure flying.
I've included a couple pictures from Soleburg Airport that I took while I was on watch. They are of our neighbors from the Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield Airship (who are also apart of our company) and of the lonely hanger there. Currently the local government is trying to claim eminent domain on the airport land so they can close it. It would be a real shame as its a nice general aviation airport. Also we'll have to find a new place to park both the Horizon blimp, which is there most of the summer, and our other airships that stay there when they are in the New York area.


September 19, 2007

Getting Watch Qualified


I did my first shift of watch today which gets me one step closer to getting watch qualified and able to focus on flying. Basically the duties of the watchman are to "babysit" the blimp. The primary concern in addition to security is to monitor the helium pressure in the hull (balloon part) of the ship. There is no internal structure to the envelope (fabric that contains the helium) so it must be kept at the proper pressure to ensure it maintains its structural integrity. Hence one of the duties of the watchman is to take hourly readings of various parameters to check and see what the helium pressure in the balloon is doing. It is noted in the log and used as reference for the mechanic to identify any unusual trends that may indicate a problem with the airship (ex. hole in envelope, bad pressure relieve valve, etc). I'll further explain how the pressure is maintained in the envelope in a future post as I'll have to find a couple of diagrams to illustrate it better.
I should be signed off to do watch after 3 or 4 more training shifts. After that, I won't have to do watch again unless there is a really unusual circumstance and they need me to help out. Its not really that hard so I don't mind if I ever have to do it.
As I mentioned earlier, the watch is in charge of babysitting the airship. From the time it is inflated in the hanger until it is deflated, there is always someone watching the airship to ensure the helium pressure is maintained within its normal range. It is that critical to the life of the airship that there is someone monitoring it day and night.

I Flew Today!

I had the opportunity to go up flying with one of our pilots today for the first time on an exposure flight. It was awesome! It was a relatively smooth day out so it was a good time to get a feel for the airship. It really flies more like a boat then an airplane as you ride the waves of thermals and changing winds. By the end of the day I was definitely getting a better feel for it. I was really surprised during the flight by how much you have to work the rudders; my legs were tired after just a couple of hours. I was kicking myself though for not bringing my camera. We flew right up towards the Hudson River and had an absolutely perfect view of the New York City skyline. It is truly a unique experience to see New York from that point of view, just a thousand feet or so above the ground. It would have made a great postcard. I look forward to more scenic views like that in the future.

September 17, 2007

Back in Jersey


This is a picture of Snoopy 2 this morning on the mast at Carroll County Airport in Maryland this morning before we left for New Jersey. It was another long day of transiting today, but it was also another day I was able to learn a lot about the operation. With each day I get a better understanding of it so its time well spent. Tomorrow should be another long day out at the airport with plenty to do. Time to get some rest on my tempurpedic mattress courtesy of the Holiday Inn.

September 16, 2007

Lazy Sunday

 
The above picture is Snoopy 2 flying by outside my hotel room window this morning on its way to do some exposure flying before it went down to Baltimore to do the football game. Today I spent most of my day studying the ground operations manual while I watched football. Back to work tomorrow though as we transit back to Soleburg, NJ where we'll be spending a few days before we head up to New England for the football game next weekend.
I'll take the time now to explain some of the terminology that is used in the operation. First off when the airship goes out with just the pilot to do some flying around over populated areas or events, it is called exposure flying. When the airship and crew are traveling to a new place, it is called transiting. They're kind of self-explanatory but thought I'd give some insight in case anybody was wondering what they meant.

September 15, 2007

Maryland Wine Festival

Well I decided to do a little exploring today since I had the day off and stumbled upon the Maryland Wine Festival which is going on just down the street about 3 miles away from the hotel. I took a walk down there to check it out and ended up going in and spending the rest of the afternoon there. For $20 you got a glass to go around and sample all of the best wines Maryland has to offer. It was a great time with a lot of good wine and a variety of interesting people I got to meet along the way. While I was there I also got to have the best crab cake I have ever had from Friendly Farms. It was delicious!

September 14, 2007

Day Off in Westminster, MD

Well we got canceled today so I've pretty much just been hanging out around the hotel today. We're actually closer to Gettysburg then we are Baltimore so there isn't a whole lot to do. There is a plaza across the street with a grocery store, a Blockbuster and assorted food choices so at least I don't have to go far to get the necessities. While I had time today, I added a calender to the bottom of the page that has a rough idea where I'll be and when this month. As with everything, it is always subject to change but gives a pretty good idea where in the country I'll be. I also added a map to track where I've been during my travels. I have the next two days off so feel free to give me a call and say hi. I'll probably be spending most of my time studying my manuals and making flash cards.

September 13, 2007

Let the Fun Begin!

I had my first day of real work today as we transited from NJ to Baltimore. I learned a lot from everybody and got to get my hands dirty in the process. I helped with everything from working the line on the airship for take off and landing to tearing down and setting up the mast. It was a particularly long day today due to how long it took us to stake the ground for the mast. The ground was so hard that what usually takes two guys 20 minutes took two hours of hard labor by the whole crew to get them in the ground.
Overall I am particularly impressed with the coordination that goes into going to the next town. All of the vehicles stay in close contact along the way and everything is well thought out in advance. The airship gets a head start but the ground crew quickly catches up and gets to the airport in advance to set up the mast. After all the ship can't land without a mast to attach it to. While in the air, the pilot updates his arrival time on the radio to allow the crew time to plan accordingly.
A great first day overall. I look forward to sleeping very well tonight.

September 12, 2007

Day Off

Well my first day here didn't seem much like work. We had the day off due to the wind so I spent much of my day just hanging around. I can see why everybody says to take advantage of the down time and find fun things to do. Otherwise this could get really boring fast. So I did some shopping and went with the Crew Chief to pick up my uniform (khaki pants and a white polo). I also took a walk down to a diner down the road for dinner that had some awesome food. For $10 I got liver and onions, a baked potato, green beans, bread, soup, salad, a drink and chocolate pudding. I just wish I was more hungry then I was. Well we leave at 9am to transit to Baltimore. I'm not sure if I'll be on the ground or in the air but I look forward to finally doing some work.

September 11, 2007

Delays Delays

Well no big surprise that my flight to Newark is delayed 3 hours this afternoon. There is a ground stop due to weather. At least I have plenty of reading I can do to pass the time and free internet at the Orlando Airport. The airport bar near the gate is blasting some great reggae tunes too. Its really hard to be in a bad mood when you're listening to reggae music. Well should just be another hour and we'll be on our way to Jersey.

First Day

Everything went well today in Orlando. I finished filling out most of the paperwork and got my books to start studying. I spent most of my night reading the ground operations manual. Tomorrow I head to NJ to join up with the crew of Snoopy 2. I have heard some great things about them and am really looking forward to learning the details of how the operation works. tomorrow the adventure really begins!

September 5, 2007

Its Official, I Start Monday

Well its official, I have airlines heading to Orlando on Monday morning to wrap up my paperwork and to begin my new career as an Airship Pilot in Training with The Lightship Group. The plan is to stay overnight in Orlando and then airline up to New Jersey on Tuesday to meet up with the crew of the Metlife Blimp, Snoopy 2. There I will begin my training as a Ground Crew member and Pilot. During my training especially, I will be given ground crew duties when I am not flight training (assisting with maneuvering the blimp on the ground, night watch, etc). I can't wait and look forward to learning all about the details of operating an airship.

I know especially initially I will be very busy learning all of my new roles during training. It should take between three and six months for me to get my airship rating. If I can get it done before Christmas, I will be very happy. It may be a little bit of an ambitious goal, but I'm going to do what I can to see if I can meet it.

Since I'll be on the road from Monday till who knows when, I'll try and keep this blog up to date with what's going on with me and anything interesting I come across along the way. Talk to you all soon!