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!