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.