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

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!