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

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.