December 15, 2008

San Francisco


San Francisco is one of my favorite places to fly around. Its just great scenery everywhere you go. I can see why Airship Ventures decided to bring a Zeppelin to the area for aerial tours. I was able to get a few pictures of it over the bay while I was up flying around the other day. Its a truly impressive aircraft. I also snapped a few other pictures of downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge and a few other land marks. One more week here and then back to Southern California!

December 1, 2008

Watching Goodyear Video

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Just a little video montage of the Goodyear Blimp landing and climbing out of their base in Carson, CA. I was flying some exposure along the 405 when I saw them coming in for a passenger exchange. A rare blimp to blimp video.

Flying the Coast Video

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A little video from my transit from San Diego to Long Beach. As you can tell, I had some fun playing around off the coast. The camera moved a little bit in my one shot but it gives you an idea of my perspective from the gondola anyway. Christopher Cross's "Sailing" is the accompanying music which sets the laid back mood that the whole trip had that day.

November 22, 2008

Day Off Hike


I took advantage of a day off this week and went hiking up in LA in Griffin Park. It was a really challenging 4 hour hike I took that tested me physically and mentally. As you can see from some of the pictures, it was worth the effort to get to the top. I was able to get a good picture of the "Hollywood" sign and downtown through the smog. The air quality was kind of low due to the smoke from the fires in the area last week but its getting better. Its kind of amazing that such an area of hiking trails and nature sits right in the middle of this vast area of developement that is Los Angeles.

Sunsets and Goodyear


We've spent this week in Long Beach. Here I just have a couple of pictures of a pleasant sunset from a flight earlier this week. Also I saw the Goodyear Blimp flying around and took a few pictures of them as well. I have some short video of it flying as well from the air that I'll try and upload soon.

Transit from San Diego to Long Beach


To this date, I think this has been my favorite transit I have flown. There is nothing quite like floating up the coast of California. I have a bunch of pictures of the coast line that begin with San Diego and move up through the Laguna Beach area. I also have some short videos I'll try and post later from the transit. Also be sure to check out the cool "blimp shadow on the cliff" picture I took.

San Diego, California


San Diego is a beautiful city to fly around. The combination of the coastline, downtown and strong US Navy presence in the area always makes for interesting scenery. Some of the highlights include shots of the coast, some naval vessels in port and the downtown skyline. I also finally flew my first football event while we were in San Diego as the Chargers slipped by the Chiefs in a last minute nail biter.

Phoenix, Arizona


We spent a few days in Phoenix, Arizona the last week in October on our way to California. Some pictures of Camel Back Mountain, the Arizona State Fair and a gorgeous desert sunset are amongst the highlights of the pictures.

Back to the Blog

Well I've been away from updating lately due to being busy and out of space for my pictures. I know half the fun of this is sharing the pictures and video I take while flying. Good news though, I've got more space so I can start uploading pictures again! I'll start getting the galleries of pictures up as they finish uploading. With each set I'll give a rundown on what I've been up to.

October 19, 2008

Kansas City Obama Rally


Did some flying over the Kansas City area yesterday. I was able to see first hand how interested in politics people have become during this year's presidential election. It was quite a sight flying over the thousands of people waiting in line to get into the Barack Obama rally on Saturday evening at the Liberty Memorial. If you take a look at the pictures in full size, you can see the line of people circle the entire park.

October 8, 2008

Above the Clouds


Here are some pictures from last week's transit down to Dallas. I got to do a little flying above the clouds since we had enough ballonet to get above them. Check out the shadow of the blimp on the clouds in some of the pictures. Pretty cool. I also took a couple of downtown Memphis from afar as I passed by.

September 28, 2008

Transit to Cinci

The transit from New Jersey to Cincinnati, OH made for some good sights along the way. The leaves are starting to change in PA especially in the valleys. The flight also brought me past some familiar places as I flew past Kent State University. Oh the memories! Also there are a number of corn mazes beginning to pop up which have some really cool designs. Check it all out in the photos below!

September 26, 2008

NYC at Night

Nothing quite as pretty as NYC at night time. Here is a video from when I flew the airship up the Hudson River towards Manhattan the other night.

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September 18, 2008

Formation Flying

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Blimps are rare to see when you consider how many there are in the world. Even rarer is to see two of them flying along together. Here is a little video and some pictures of 2 airships flying together back to the airport where they both are moored in New Jersey.

September 4, 2008

Beantown

I flew around downtown Boston today and took a few pictures. I began by passing by Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and then flying up to downtown. I got some good shots of the skyline as well as Boston Logan Airport and Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Its always a unique way to see a city from the blimp. A nice way to spend the morning in Beantown.

August 31, 2008

Shipping Up to Boston


We're up in the greater Boston Area for the Deutsche Bank Championship this weekend and the New England Patriots game next weekend. I took a few pictures on the transit up here which was a very enjoyable ride up the Long Island Sound. It began with a trip up the East River past Manhattan and then directly over LaGuardia Airport. From there, I flew up along the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the Newport area and then up to Mansfield, MA. A picture perfect transit day!

August 30, 2008

A Rare Opportunity



Last week there was a rare event of having all three Metlife Blimps in one location as we spent a few days in New Jersey. Check out the slide show of pictures above I took of the three returning to the airport and the movie below.


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August 24, 2008

Pictures from the OC

Every once in a while, I find pictures that were taken while I was flying and sometimes they find me. I always get a kick out of seeing them though. Its fun to see the blimp through the eyes of someone else. Plus it reminds me that flying the blimp isn't a dream; I'm actually doing it. Check out some pictures that were taken of Snoopy 2 while we were at Orange County Airport by clicking here.
Thats me landing the ship and putting it on the mast for the night. Special thanks to Tom Bushey who took the photos and contacted me through the comments section to share them with me. You took some really great pictures Tom! I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I did.

August 21, 2008

Keeping Busy

Well I've been keeping busy with the golf tournament last week in Greensboro, NC. I flew my first Sunday which was kind of cool. On the other days we were flying exposure over the area. I was able to get a couple cool pictures of University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on one of the days. On another day, I took a couple pictures of NASCAR driver Kyle Petty's camp for kids with special needs, Victory Junction. Really an impressive sight from above; the quick pictures I got of it don't quite do it justice. Now I'm up in New Jersey for a few days till we ship up to Boston!

August 13, 2008

Charleston, WV


A few photos from last week's stop in Charleston, WV on our way to Greensboro, NC.

August 4, 2008

Adios Ohio!



Its always nice being in a familiar place near friends and family, but it always must come to an end sometime. We left this morning from Akron, OH to start our transit to North Carolina. Before we left, we made sure to stop by a few landmarks for some pictures. First we went over to Wingfoot Lake to take a look at the Goodyear Blimp Hanger there. They are out of town but its an impressive facility nonetheless. After that, we flew down over the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. As you can see they were beginning to pack up from this weekend's Induction Ceremony festivities. Always fun to visit the area but I didn't start doing this to stay in familiar places for too long. Lots of places still to see!

August 3, 2008

Beautiful Day in Akron

Its a beautiful day here in Akron,OH. I took this picture before the ship came off the mast today to provide aerial coverage for the golf tournament at Firestone Country Club. Masting here at Akron-Fulton Airport, its hard not to think about the huge airships that use to be built in that that blimp hanger many years ago.

July 29, 2008

Back on Snoopy 2

Well I'm back on Snoopy 2 again after a few months on our sister ship Snoopy1. We are now currently in Akron, OH for the Bridgestone Invitational which is a bit of a homecoming for me. I flew some exposure over the Akron/Cleveland area yesterday and it was truly a walk down memory lane. I spent almost 10 years living in the area so every landmark takes me back. Flying over my old alma mater, Kent State, downtown Akron and what is left of Geauga Lake amusement park all reminded me of the days when this was just a dream. I can remember one day in particular that I was stuck in traffic on I77 as the Goodyear Blimp flew over head. I said to myself, what a cool job; I wonder how I could get into doing that. Little did I know that a few years later I would be the guy flying a blimp over that same freeway.

Its amazing how life can come full circle on you like that. I believe there is no dream that can't be realized. It can be a long road that seems like its going nowhere at times. I mean just four years ago I was working in an office at an insurance company. A lot of people would have just been comfortable and stayed in what was a promising career. I had a dream though that I refused to let die. My adventurous spirit would not let me be happy in a cubical. I needed and wanted more out of life so I took some chances along the way to pursue the goal of flying for a living. Even in that though led to disappointment when life at the airlines was still not enough to make me happy. In that time of discontent, I recalled what I had always wanted to do, fly blimps. With some legwork and good timing, it all started to fall into place at this time last year and the rest is history.

In this rather long reflection on things, I guess the moral of the story is simple. Don't give up on dreams that you know will make you happy. Even what seems as the biggest long shot idea in the world can become reality. It happens everyday. It just takes a lot of work, persistence and faith that it will all work out. Stay confident in yourself and your decisions. Sometimes the road to one dream leads you to another more fulfilling one. Its not always obvious at the time, but when you look back it all makes sense.

I know I can't do this forever. Life on the road isn't easy. However, I am sure that this will lead me to yet another dream somewhere down the road. I just wonder if there was anybody on the ground yesterday looking up that thought, "I want to fly airships."

Go after your dream whatever it is; its worth every minute when you get there!

July 23, 2008

Big Brother Snoopy 3

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We've been spending out time flying exposure over New York City along the Hudson River this week. On my way back, I passed Snoopy 3 on the Hudson River who is also in New Jersey currently. Snoopy 3 is a larger airship than Snoopy 1 and 2. It is an American Blimp Corporation A-150+ Airship. It is 165 feet long, 46 feet wide, and 55 feet tall with a gondola that can accommodate a pilot and nine passengers. The envelope volume is 150,000 cu ft and is powered by two 180hp Lycoming engines. They have some power too. On my way back to the airport, I turned my head back and saw Snoopy 3 catching up to me. It was quite a little race back, but I had just enough of a head start to land first.

July 19, 2008

Chicagoland Speedway



We arrived in Jersey a couple of days ago from the Quad Cities. One leg of the flight took me through Joliet, IL which happens to be the home of Chicagoland Speedway. They just had a big race there this past weekend in fact. I was just a few days too late. We ended that day in Toledo where I took a picture of the peace sign in the field near the airport.

July 6, 2008

Quad Cities


We've been in Quad Cities for about a week now in preparation for the John Deer Classic PGA Tournament. Quad Cities is located on the boarder of Illinois and Iowa along the Mississippi River. Despite being called the Quad Cities, there are actually five cities that the nickname refers to: Davenport, Iowa; Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; Bettendorf, Iowa and East Moline, Illinois. The picture on the left is of downtown Davenport. The Quad Cities is home to the World Headquarters of John Deer and the Rock Island Arsenal where they still produce ordinance and weapons components for the US Army.
There was a lot going on this past weekend with 4th of July Festivities all over the area. I went to one in Bettendorf that included a Kiss Tribute Band with an Elvis impersonator on lead vocals. A great tribute band once you get over the initial shock of seeing Elvis sing with Kiss.

June 25, 2008

Land of 10,000 Lakes

Well I added another state to my list the other day when we finished up our transit to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We're up here this week to provide aerial coverage for the US Women's Open beginning tomorrow on ESPN. The picture on the left is of the mighty Mississippi River near the town of Wabasha, MN. It was another picturesque day flying over rural Wisconsin and Minnesota. I even was joined by an ultralight that flew by to say hi as I got near Minneapolis. The rest of the pictures from the transit can be seen here.

June 23, 2008

After the Storms


After most of the storms passed through the South Bend area the other night, I took a look out of my hotel window and had the perfect view of this huge rainbow. In a way it signaled the end of the thunderstorms that had delayed our transit to Minneapolis.




June 22, 2008

New York, New York the Video

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I put together a short collection of the videos I took last week flying around New York City. It doesn't quite give the experience justice, but it was fun putting it together. I hope you enjoy it!

June 15, 2008

New York, New York



It has been a fun week flying over New York City. Getting to fly up and down the Hudson River in view of almost all of the major New York City landmarks is a really unique experience. Some of the many landmarks I took pictures of include the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. Enjoy all of the pictures!

June 10, 2008

Return to Jersey

 
I flew the short transit up to New Jersey from Delaware yesterday. It was a relatively short flight but it sure was hot out. Even at altitude it was around 83F and humid! On the flight it occurred to me that I am returning to New Jersey almost exactly nine months since I started the job back in September. Thinking back, I realized how much I've learned in that relatively short amount of time and all the places I've been. Of course the learning and traveling never ends with this job; everyday brings new challenges and adventures.

June 5, 2008

Days Off in DC


Since I was just a short hour and a half train ride to Washington, DC I decided to jump on the Amtrak on my days off and go down and visit my sister. While I was there, I walked around the city a little and took a few pictures of the Capital Building and Washington Monument. I also stopped into The Air and Space Museum to take a look around and see what was new. I was on a mission to find any exhibits that dealt with airships, but they were few and far in between.

Before I left, I decided to check out the new National Museum of Crime and Punishment that just opened May 23. It was an amazing museum that I literally ran out of time in. I could have spent another two hours there at least looking at all of the exhibits. Some of the highlights include the knife Billy the Kid was holding when he was killed, the car Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in and the machine gun used in the final scene of Scarface. The museum also had a lot of exhibits related to the legal process that explain such things as finger printing, police lineups and crime scene investigation. There were a number of interactive exhibits that made the whole experience really fun. Finally at the end of the museum tour, you can see the new studios where America's Most Wanted is now taping their show. According to a worker there, they just shot the first episode there last week. The host of America's Most Wanted, John Walsh is actually a part owner of the museum. If you are in DC, I highly recommend you check it out. I know I'll definitely go back.

June 3, 2008

Transit to Delaware


Well its been another busy week with the Memorial Tournament in Columbus, OH concluding on Sunday. I flew both Friday and Saturday in case you caught any of the coverage. Then yesterday I flew the first leg on our transit to Delaware. It was a gorgeous day to be flying over Southeast Ohio and Western PA. It took me back to my early days of flying since I flew a lot of my cross country flights down that way. I even got to see the giant Longaberger basket in Newark, OH. As you can see from the pictures, their corporate building is shaped just like one of their baskets. No matter how many times I see it, its still impressive. I also took some pictures of Wheeling, WV as I passed over it and some windmills near the Pennsylvania town of Somerset. Another fun day flying in the blimp!

May 26, 2008

Catching Up

Well its been a busy week or so. I apologize for the lack of posts lately. We made it up to Rochester, NY in time for the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill. I received my first taste of flying for a TV event on Thursday for the Golf Channel coverage and then again on Saturday for the NBC coverage of the event. If you saw the "Best Shot in Golf" documentary a couple weeks ago on CBS, you have an idea of all the effort that goes into providing aerial coverage for golf events. It is every bit the challenge I expected it to be and more. Its a delicate balance trying to maneuver the airship to where the camera man can get the shots he needs, when he needs them, while trying not to distract the golfers below. It requires a lot of concentration and situational awareness to ensure you remain where you need to be. It comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but flying golf events is probably the most difficult kind of flying we do. I'm look forward to continuing to improve my skills with each event I fly. Since golf events cover most of our summer schedule, I'll have plenty of opportunities to do so. Our next event is The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio near Columbus.

May 16, 2008

Flying Over Baltimore


I flew some exposure over the Baltimore area yesterday for a few hours. I spent most of my time flying over downtown Baltimore. On my way I stopped over the site of this weekend's Preakness Stakes to take a look at the site. As you can see, preparation for the big event is well underway. Some other highlights of downtown include the baseball and football stadiums, the waterfront area and Johns Hopkins Hospital. We're not in town long enough to head up there to check out the city from the ground, but hopefully I'll get a chance the next time we roll through the area. I hear the waterfront is a great place to hang out.

May 13, 2008

Transit to Baltimore

We finished the two day transit to the Baltimore area today. I passed through Richmond, VA on my way north and then around the Washington area. Funny how life comes full circle sometimes. Last year at this time, I was planning on moving to Richmond for my job with a regional airline. I must say I'm glad that things ended up working out as they did. I would have never had that kind of view of the city from a regional jet!

May 11, 2008

Speedway From Above

During my last day of flying exposure over the Charlotte area, I was able to make it up to Concord, NC just northeast of Charlotte. As you may recall from my previous post, it is home of the Lowe's Motor Speedway. I took a few pictures of the speedway from the air while I was up there. After seeing it from the ground the other day, I'm glad I had a chance to fly around it while we were still in Charlotte.

May 7, 2008

NASCAR Country


I took advantage of my day off today and went up to Concord, NC, home of Lowe's Motor Speedway. Unfortunately there weren't any tours going on today, but I was able to take a few pictures of the Nascar track. It is really an impressive structure. I can only imagine what it will be like there in a couple weeks when they host the Coca Cola 600. Keeping with my Nascar theme today, I then went to Hendrick Motorsports which is located near the track. Hendrick Motorsports employs such superstar drivers as Jeff Godron, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhart Jr. They had a huge museum and gift shop that showcased some of the team's most monumental cars. Across the street, there are two huge buildings that are where they actually assemble the race cars for the team. Really a cool experience to see the history of the racing team and then watch as they work on cars that may go on to be future winners.

April 28, 2008

Flying Around Charlotte

I took a few pictures of downtown Charlotte while flying exposure the other day. As you may have noticed by now, I really like taking pictures of different downtown landscapes. From the air, the rising buildings of downtown are always the most impressive landmarks no matter where you are.

Friday also marked my first flight in the Snoopy 1 airship. In case you were wondering, it is exactly the same airship as Snoopy 2. They both are A60+ airships with Rotax engines and matching decals on the envelopes. However despite being the same type of blimp, each one has a slightly different feel at the controls. It usually doesn't take very long, but there is always an initial adjustment to get the feel of the ship.

April 25, 2008

Snoopy 1 Documentary Airs Next Saturday

For anyone that would like some insight into what we do especially when it comes to TV events like golf, set your Tivo for CBS next Saturday May 3 at 2pm ET. CBS is airing an hour long documentary called "The Best Shot in Golf presented by MetLife." It features behind the scenes footage of the Snoopy 1 crew as well as all of the different television production people that bring the aerial shots to air during a tournament. You can read the official press release here which includes a short video trailer for the documentary.

April 23, 2008

Pictures from My First Solo Flight


About a month ago, I took my first solo flight in the blimp while we were in Dallas. I just received some pictures that Mandy took for me from that day. I now have pictures of yet another milestone, my first solo landing and return to the mast. Thanks Mandy!

April 20, 2008

Hanging Out on Avicta


Well I have been traded so to say. I have left Snoopy 2 and am on my way to Snoopy 1 for a couple months. En route to Snoopy 1, I've been sent to do some flying on the Avicta Complete Cotton Airship. I started the day with a passenger flight over downtown New Orleans. Actually seeing some areas that were obviously devastated by Katrina in the area really brings to life how horrible that disaster was. Downtown was a nice scenic flight, including such landmarks as the French Corridor and the Superdome. Following that flight, I flew the transit to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to finish up my Line Pilot qualification. I took a couple pictures during the short flight including the largest bridge in the world,the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The longer of the two bridges is 23.87 miles long in length connecting Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, and Mandeville, Louisiana.

April 19, 2008

Flying Around Fort Worth


You know that feeling you get when you glance in your rear view mirror to realize there is a cop behind you? I kind of had that feeling on Friday when I looked out my window to my left to see the Fort Worth Police helicopter hovering next to me. I was just flying around fat, dumb and happy enjoying the view when he caught me by surprise. It was cool though to give him a wave and cruise down along the highway together for a few minutes. It was really impressive to see how perfectly in line next to me he was able to stay despite how slow we fly. I even had enough time to get a picture.
Fort Worth 04-08

April 15, 2008

Cruising Around Dallas



It was a beautiful day to be flying over Dallas yesterday. I finally had a chance to fly up by the "old" Texas Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play. Its an impressive stadium, but the new one they are building in Arlington is going to top it for sure. Then after working the many freeways around Dallas, I spent some time over a t-ball game waving to the people below and taking some pictures. I figure its good practice for when I finally start flying events. Plus its always fun to see people excited about the blimp.

The next best thing is hearing about how someone saw you flying. I received a comment on the blog that included a story that cracked me up so I thought I'd feature it.

Hi! I was in the middle of interviewing a very nice guy for a job in my department when over his shoulder and out the window of our offices I saw you! I feel bad now, because I leapt out of my chair, pointed and exclaimed "look its Snoopy 2" as he was telling me his work history. Hey, if he wants to come work for me, he needs to get used to my love of blimps. :)

Thanks for flying over the Clear Channel radio building. You made my day!


Reading that story totally made my day. Its such a fun business on so many levels. I love my job!

April 13, 2008

Back in Dallas

The wind can be your friend and the wind can be your enemy. On Friday during our transit back to Dallas, the wind was definitely not being friendly. No matter what I did, we had around a 15kt headwind the whole way up from Houston. It made for a long day especially since it was such a nice sunny day. Unfortunately in blimping a clear, sunny day isn't associated with the smoothest ride. As the sun heats the earth, the air warms and begins to rise forming what are called thermals. Since the airship has such a large surface area, even the smallest thermal keeps you busy on the controls as you try to maintain altitude and keep your pressure within limits. As the airship is pushed up by a thermal, the pressure in the envelope increases due to the expanding helium. So in the case of extremely strong thermals that can't simply be flown out of using pitch, the pilot may be pitching the nose full down, giving the engines full throttle, and pulling the air valve for the ballonet open. Luckily we didn't have too many thermals that were that strong. I think the worst was one that pushed us up about 500 feet in less than a minute. It still was a lot of work just keeping the ship level though most of the day. Needless to say, I slept well that night when we arrived at the hotel. It concluded my longest day at the controls since I began flying the blimp.

April 9, 2008

Flying Over Houston

Well its been a really busy week for me down here in Houston. I've done a ton of the flying since we arrived here on Tuesday. I was able to get some experience with the camera equipment attached to the airship since I flew exposure in the mornings before the golf coverage began each day. It really isn't as a big of a deal as I thought it would be. The ship flies pretty much the same; you just need a little bit of pitch up especially during ground handling in case the gondola pitches down.

While on the ground, we were entertained by the many fighter jets that fly in and out of Ellington Field. I was able to get a couple pictures and some video of the A-10s and F-16s that were around. I also took a number of pictures around downtown and some of the historical landmarks while flying this week. Some of them may look a little familiar from my previous visit to Houston. However, there are some new unique pictures like the new cathedral downtown, what it looks like to fly with the camera equipment on and the buildings of downtown in low visibility.

An excellent week with some well earned days off today and tomorrow. Then we're back on the road to Dallas!

April 4, 2008

Houston Update

We made it to Houston on Tuesday with some good planning and a break in the weather. I planned and flew the transit down from Dallas as part of my training to get signed off as a line pilot. The more senior pilot I flew with was really helpful in giving me some tips and quizing me about various possible situations. Other then that, he let me run the show and make all the decisions. It was a nice confidence boost knowing that I'm thinking about the right things as we're flying along. The planning that goes into transitting the blimp from place to place is extensive due to all of the various factors involved. Weather, the airship, fuel planning, location of the crew, traffic on the ground, etc are just some of the factors that have to be reevaluated constantly in the air. Always knowing the location of your crew and possible alternate airports along the way is crucial. The best plans can be foiled by a flat tire on one of the trailers or unpredicted weather. Hence there always has to be a "plan B" and "plan C" even. Of course all of this is what makes being an airship pilot so great, the challenge of each flight is never quite the same.

March 31, 2008

Stuck in Dallas

Well weather has kept us here in Dallas till at least tomorrow due to the thunderstorms that are forecast from here to Houston today. I did get a chance to fly some exposure over the Dallas-Fort Worth area yesterday though. By adding another six hours to the logbook, what started as a dismal day turned into a fairly nice one. Since we aren't flying today, I stumbled on a YouTube video on Airshipworld Blog of the AVICTA Complete Cotton Airship. Before getting its new decals, it was previously the airship I trained on in Orlando and passed my checkride in. The video is of the blimp flying over the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, MS. They are currently in the middle of a 3000 mile tour of the Southeast United States promoting the AVICTA product and giving passenger rides for the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation. To learn more about AVICTA's blimp tour, check out their website here.


March 26, 2008

Media Day and an Osprey

In celebration of the 140th anniversary of the first Metlife contract being signed, we had some media people out to the blimp for rides on Monday. The Dallas Morning News video can be found here. The article and video from News 8 can be found here. Both are great video segments about their experience in the airship that day.

Also on Monday while the airship was up flying exposure, we had the rare treat of seeing one of Bell Helicopter's new civilian version of the V-22 Osprey, the BA609 Tiltrotor, on a test flight. Its just a really cool aircraft to see up close. I took a few pictures and even was able to get a video of takeoff. Some excellent entertainment to pass the time at the field.

Osprey Pictures-Arlington Airport

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March 23, 2008

First Solo Flight


The airship rating is a little unique in the fact that you never fly the airship solo until after you have passed your checkride. With my vacation, weather and just how the schedule has gone, it took a while for the opportunity to arise for me to take the ship up solo. Finally yesterday everything was in alignment and I was able to do some blimpin' on my own. I spent about six hours flying exposure around the Dallas area. I started up by downtown and worked my way south and then back up towards Arlington where Six Flags and the stadiums are.
I must say soloing in the blimp had a lot different feeling then my first solo in an airplane. I think it has to do with the fact that you have so much time in the airship by then that its all just second nature. Of course the similarity between the experiences lies in the fact that you look in the left seat and there is no one else there. You realize that all of the decisions are yours and there is no one to back you up if you miss something. Its good though; it keeps you on your toes especially during landing!

March 20, 2008

UFO....No Just a Blimp!

The big characteristic and selling point of the American Blimp Corporation's Airships that we fly are that the envelope can be fully illuminated at night. It allows for night time exposure flying which often catches the general public's eye more so then during the daytime. However there is something about a glowing orb in the sky that causes people's imaginations to run a little wild. One such example happened during out transit last week near El Paso according to an article in the El Paso Times.

Police say object was blimp with lights

El Paso Times Staff

A supposed UFO spotted floating over Socorro on Wednesday night was a blimp with lights around it, a Socorro police dispatcher said.

At least one call was made to Socorro police, and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office reporting the flying object, which was seen as far away as Horizon City.

Socorro police dispatcher Angel Almanza said the object was a blimp that could be seen from the police station. "It looks weird because it has a lot of lights," Almanza said.

March 19, 2008

Arena Football

Well after the weather here in Dallas getting a little nasty the past couple days, looks like it will be back to work tomorrow flying some exposure over the area. The other night a few of us took in some arena football in downtown Dallas. The Dallas Desperadoes beat the Colorado Crunch in an entertaining game. Our seats were way up in the nosebleeds but it still was a lot of fun.

March 16, 2008

Visitting Downtown Dallas

A couple of us took some time to check out downtown Dallas yesterday and to see the historic place where JFK was shot. I took a few pictures while I was there. The sixth floor of the book depository, the grassy knoll and the marked X where JFK was shot were pretty much the highlights. It isn't a landmark that you can really spend a lot of time at but was still cool to see.

March 14, 2008

The Rest of the Way to Dallas


We made it the rest of the way to Arlington, TX which is in the middle of the vast metropolis of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was on the ground the rest of the transit the past few days due to the lack of lift we had after venting helium to get over the high elevations in New Mexico. If was roughly 1500 miles we traveled to get here so everyone has earned themselves a few days off. I'm trying to figure out what I'll do with my time as this is the first time I've been in Dallas for more then a day or two. On the list for sure is some BBQ.

March 12, 2008

Transit East



I helped begin the transit east by flying along with Mandy from Long Beach to near Phoenix, AZ today. It was a gorgeous day and just about a picture perfect flight as you can see from the pictures above. It was nice to be back in the seat again.

There were a bunch of highlights today. It began with getting to valve helium for the first time to get us over the mountain passes. In order to climb the airship higher then its pressure height, you need to vent helium from the ship which takes careful planning on the pilot's part as you loose lift as a result. A moment that really made me feel special today was flying over a school yard full of kids on recess that were all waving to me. Really a neat feeling getting to wave back to them from the blimp. I wish I could have got a picture. Next, flying through the Banning Pass with its hundreds of turbine windmills is impressive from the ground but even more so in the air. Finally, enjoying sunset just outside of the greater Phoenix area as the sun dipped below the mountains was just gorgeous. A perfect end to an enjoyable day.

The adventure all continues tomorrow. Not sure if I'll be flying but its always an adventure either way. The view is just a little better up top. :)

March 10, 2008

Out of the Hanger


Well we took the airship out of the hanger last night. The picture above is of the hanger doors opening around sunset while the one below is of the ship in the hanger just before we took it out. I was outside checking the wind and thought it was a cool picture though it didn't come out as nice as I'd hope on my camera phone.

An airship is most vulnerable to an incident going in or out of the hanger and going to and from the mast. The wind direction and velocity needs to be meticulously checked around the entire area outside the hanger. Depending on where you are standing, the wind hitting the large surface area of the hanger can cause changes in the airflow around it which need to be taken into account and considered. In ideal conditions, the wind is light and directly on the nose of the airship as it comes out. It keeps the airship from moving off wind and eliminates a lot of the air disturbances caused by the hanger.

Luckily last night the winds remained favorable and we were able to get the airship out without any problems. It takes a lot of planning and coordination between pilot and crew to safely get the blimp outside. I definitely learned a lot from the experience.

The transit east is scheduled to begin tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting back on the road again.

March 9, 2008

Busy Weekend

Well I continued my exploration of California the past two days in my free time. I began with a visit to Santa Monica Beach and Pier on Friday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day as you can see on the left. After walking up and down the beach, I had a hot dog on a stick and headed back towards Hollywood. I spent my night at a tv taping for the ABC sitcom, "According to Jim." I really enjoyed the taping which lasted almost four hours. It was both informative and entertaining to see a tv show get taped live. Between scenes, the host kept us ammused with his commedic antics and some food (sandwiches and cookies). The cast was really friendly and took the time to sign autographs for anyone who wanted one after the show. I was fortunate enough to get Jim Belushi's autograph and talk to him for a moment. He is truely a classy guy who appreciates his fans.

Today I took some time to do some shopping around the area and then headed down to Hunington Beach. It is a popular surf spot and there were pleanty of surfers out there. I almost feel guilty going to the beach knowing that they are buried under snow back home. Wish you were here!



March 7, 2008

Jimmy Kimmel Live

One of the best things about this job is doing things on your down time. I spent the afternoon walking around Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive checking out the shops. Then tonight I took advantage of being in LA and went to see a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live. The tickets are free and its pretty much a full night of entertainment. The night began with Jimmy taping an interview with Rosanne Barr that will air on March 26 which was a nice bonus to the show's line up. The guests on tonight's show were Woody Harrelson, the Ax Men (new reality show about loggers on the History Channel) and the band Simple Plan. After watching the studio taping, we were sent outside for Simple Plan's performance in the parking lot stage area. It was like a mini concert with them playing four songs plus a sound check before we even got out there to join the rest of the crowd. Overall, a good way to spend an evening.

March 5, 2008

Hanger Talk


Well I'm back on the road again in Tustin, CA. The blimp is currently in the hanger for its annual maintenance inspection. For the most part the pilots take a step back and let the maintenance guys do what they do best to get the ship ready for another busy season of blimping. I do try and help out where I can though. While I was out there yesterday, I took a couple of pictures of the blimp hangers here in Tustin which are located at the now closed Marine Corps Air Base. I can only imagine what it was like to see the giant Navy Airships in their prime in these giant hangers. Our airship is tiny compared to those monstrous dirigibles.

February 20, 2008

Highlights

Being on vacation has given me some time to reflect on the past five months and take it all in. It really has been a great beginning to a great adventure. I decided to put together a little highlight reel from my hundreds of pictures from the road thus far. It pretty much follows the journey west from my first meeting up with the crew in New Jersey to our travels up and down the California coast and ending with passing the checkride in Florida. If you want to check out all of the photos, you can find them all here. The accompanying music is a song called "Hourglass" by one of my favorite bands, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, off of their latest album "No More Beautiful World." Time sure flies by fast, even in a blimp.

video

February 12, 2008

Blimp Wash



Before putting on new decals, an airship must be washed down with soap and water. It not only cleans the envelope fabric but allows us to check for leaks in the envelope. Its just like checking for leaks in a tire. Despite my healthy fear of heights, I helped out up on the cherry picker washing the ship. It wasn't as bad as I thought and turned out to be a really good learning experience. Its not often you get to see the top of an airship up close.

Last Stop Tampa

I flew my last leg on the blank blimp tour today into Tampa, FL. Here we will put the ship in the hanger to finish up its annual inspection and get new decals put on it for an upcoming contract. It should take approximately a week to finish everything up if all goes according to plan. This will actually be my last stop with this crew as I head back home for vacation at the end of the week. After five months on the road, I need a little break to catch up on life's day to day things and to visit with friends and family. I just hope I can fit everything in that I'd like to get done.

February 9, 2008

License to Learn



Well we passed our checkrides yesterday, adding two more Airship Pilots to the ranks of the estimated less then 150 that are in the world. Fun fact: It is often said that there are more astronauts then airship pilots.

I feel relived to be done with the training and to have officially added the rating to my certificate. However, the learning has just begun. Like with everything, experience is life's true teacher. Every flight is unique and you never know what challenges may lay before you.

January 26, 2008

Back on the East Coast

Well I'm back on the East Coast now as of Wednesday to finish up my training. I left San Diego to go to the hanger in Elizabeth City, NC. We took the ship out of the hanger on Friday and are on our way down to Florida now to concentrate on training for the next few weeks. I may not have many updates during this time due to how busy we plan on being, but I'll try if I get a chance. Hopefully in 2 weeks, I can say I'm one of the few proudly rated airship pilots in the world.

January 17, 2008

Day Off in Hollywood



I spent my day off today up in Hollywood. I got up nice and early and took the train up to LA and then a bus over to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank to take their VIP Tour. It was well worth the $39 (usually $45 but they had a discount day today) for the over two hour tour around the studio. We only had 3 people in our group total too so it felt like we got a more personalized tour experience. Despite the fact that there were no shows filming due to the writers' strike, it still was a lot of fun.

We started off in the back lot where we saw all of the outdoor scenes that they customize for numerous tv shows and movies. The highlights included the alley where the famous kiss from Spiderman was shot, the ER ambulance bay set, and the "any town USA" back lot set where they filmed Dukes of Hazard and Gilmore Girls.

After that we went up to the front lot where all of the sound stages are and drove by the many stages where numerous tv and movies have been filmed over the years. Unfortunately they locked up everyones' camera during this portion of the tour for privacy. The roads between stages were the very same that were used during the filming of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. If you remember the movie, its the scene where Pee Wee was getting chased around the movie studio on his bike. We were able to visit one currently filming sound stage for the tv show Chuck. It is the set used to film the scenes set at his home, a nice outdoor apartment complex. This sound stage is the same one that was used to film the George Lopez show. One of the guides showed us the makeup room which has its walls covered in autographs from various people and stars that dropped by the set over the years the show was taped. Some of the notable stars include Clint Eastwood, Eva Longoria and of course George Lopez. According to the guides, he is one of the friendliest people you will ever meet and was always sociable with the tours.

We then proceeded to the Prop House where they store all of the props used on the sets. In there, they had a mock up of all of the props used in the Central Perk set from Friends which was cool. After that we headed over to the transportation building and saw George Clooney's Batmobile, the General Lee and the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.

The tour concluded at the museum. In there they had a few props and wardrobe from a variety of movies and tv series. There were such things as the door to their apartment from Friends, wardrobe from The Departed, the Dukes of Hazard and ER, and various awards for such movies as Happy Feet and Roots.

When I was finished with the tour, I headed back to Universal City to walk around Universal's City Walk and to grab some lunch. After that I headed back towards Hollywood to check out Mann's Chinese Theater with all of the hand and footprints in front. I was pleasantly surprised to see I wear the same shoe size as George Clooney. When I finished up there, I took a walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard to check out the Walk of Fame. I think anybody that has ever been even a little bit famous has a star on there. I finished my walk at Hollywood and Vine to take a picture of the Capitol Records Building and catch the train back to Long Beach. Overall, a fun and adventurous day. I think I prefer flying over the Hollywood area to being on the ground though.

January 15, 2008

Night Flying Over LA

video

To prepare for the practical test, part of the requirements for an airship rating is that the applicant has 10 hours of night flying logged in the the airship. I was able to finish that requirement tonight as we flew exposure over Downtown Los Angeles. While we were flying around I thought I'd take a short video to give everyone an idea of what LA looks like at night around rush hour time. Basically this is a 360 degree view of Downtown LA as I saw it tonight as I was flying around. My camera isn't the best at night but I think it will give you an idea anyway. You can see in the video lines of white lights, next to lines of red lights. Anywhere you see that is actually the back up of traffic on the major highways. This video was taken just south of downtown near the I-10 and I-110 freeways which was very busy just like the rest of the freeways.

January 6, 2008

Rainy Day "Ground School"



Well we flew a couple of days of exposure flying this week before the storms started rolling into the greater Los Angeles area. In situations like this with the weather, you pretty much just have to take it day by day. The down time has given me time to catch up on a few things though. For example, I finally uploaded the pictures I was given by our line pilot.

These pictures above are from my first day coming off the mast in the left seat followed by my first takeoff. Since there are only one set of controls, there is little room for error even as a first timer. Luckily I have a very experienced instructor next to me to ensure we remain safe. An airship is most vulnerable on the ground due to its large surface area and the sometimes unpredictability of wind. This is why an airship pilot must always be ready to go-around even on the ground until the airship is locked back on the mast.

The pilot's responsibility on the ground is to assist the crew by keeping the ship faced into the wind with rudder input. Other then the occasional use of a little throttle at times to move forward or reverse to slow down, its the crew that moves the ship on the ground. As you can see in the pictures, the crew chief directs the crew as to where to take the airship and communicates directly with the pilot. The guys on the car (crew party) keep the gondola under the envelope and assist in moving the airship. They are also responsible for adding and removing ballast as directed by the crew chief. Finally, there are usually two guys on each of the nose lines (line parties). They remain perpendicular to the nose of the airship where they keep it pointed into the wind under the direction of the crew chief. The line crew does this by pulling on the rope, or "checking the rope", on the side the crew chief signals. By pulling the nose in that direction, it allows the tail of the ship to realign itself into the wind.

When the pilot is ready, the crew party is cleared from the car and the pilot begins to power up. The line party slacks the lines and drops them at the direction of the crew chief. The pilot continues to add power and increase pitch till airborne. Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon!