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!