December 31, 2007
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 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
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
December 12, 2007
December 10, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
November 6, 2007
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
October 30, 2007
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
October 27, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
September 23, 2007
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, jalapeños 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.
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
Oh the best bit of wisdom I heard today is "Home is where your tooth brush is."
September 20, 2007
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.
September 19, 2007
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.
September 17, 2007
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
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
September 14, 2007
September 13, 2007
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
September 11, 2007
September 5, 2007
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!