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.