Goodyear's newest airship, Wingfoot One, was redesigned. Other than being bigger, it looks the same, but flying the old model was done by operating a wheel and rudder system; the new model is controlled by a joystick to control flight control surfaces and vectored engines can swivel in any direction allowing the ship to take off and land like a helicopter and hover in place.
Wingfoot has a maximum speed of 73 miles per hour, compared to the
old ship’s 50. Despite those slow speeds, blimps are difficult to
fly. With less than 40 blimp pilots in the world, it's one of the
rarest jobs on the planet. There is no set altitudes, airs peeds or
power settings. The ship is so impacted by air, wind and weather that
a pilot needs to adapt moment-by-moment, operating by intuition.
Most of a blimp's crew are on the ground. The point of contact
between the pilot and the ground crew during flight is the Crew Chief
who must have at least five years of relevant airship ground handling
The Crew Chief directs the ground crew during takeoffs, landings,
ground handling and masting operations. He is also in charge of
chedules for ground operations and personnel such as work activities,
pressure watches, refueling and general maintenance.
The Pilot-in-Charge is responsible for all aspects of the airship's
operation. The Assistant Pilot-in-Charge supervises and directs the
training and development of all other pilots, department chiefs and
crew members. Based on weather conditions and other circumstances,
the decision to fly at any time belongs to the Pilot-in-Charge.
One of the PIC is to monitor and confirm that blimp pilot candidates
are prepared to safely operate the blimp. The PIC must hold a
commercial Lighter-than-Air rating and an instrument rating, and each
Goodyear Blimp pilot candidate must successfully undergo and complete
a comprehensive Goodyear Lighter-than-Air flight training program and
successfully pass the Federal Aviation Administration requirements to
obtain an LTA airship rating.
The Chief Mechanic makes sure conditions are for safe for operation
and must hold Inspection Authorization and Airframe and Power Plant
Certifications. He supervises a department of airship mechanics and
performs maintenance and repairs of the airship as needed and as
required by law. This includes the airframe and power plant, envelope
and cabling. He supervises the other mechanics in their duties
including testing fabric integrity at routine intervals, re-cabling
flight controls when needed and engine maintenance, etc. He ius also
charged with maintaining records of all maintenance logs for as
required by company policy and FAA regulations.
he Goodyear blimps travel thousands of miles every year and they are
followed on the ground by a fleet of support vehicles that include a
bus, a tractor-trailer unit and two vans. For the new Goodyear blimp,
there is also a Mack-built mast truck for mooring the airship.
The Chief Ground Service Equipment Mechanic’s sees that these
vehicles are maintained in compliance with DOT and company
regulations and standards. This equipment includes gasoline and
diesel engines, air conditioning units, mast stake-driving power
tools, power haulers for moving heavy parts and pieces, and auxiliary
power units. He has one or more Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
certifications and supervises other mechanics and maintain a proper
A utility van with fully equipped with two-way communications is used
for crew transportation to and from overnight accommodations while on
travel assignments. A bus is used for ground crew transportation and
two-way communication with the blimp during travel operations. The
bus contains a complete office where administrative duties are
The 18-wheeler truck's trailer contains a powerful generator to
provide electricity in remote locations, but also houses maintenance
shops where electronic technicians and mechanics maintain the blimp's
systems when traveling across the country. It stores spare parts and
all the necessary equipment for remote setup and operation.
The Chief Electronic Technician supervises electronic technicians who
work with communications and navigation equipment, radar, power
generation, electrical systems and all wiring systems in the airship.
Duties include installing, repairing and maintaining the high
definition microwave television equipment used during network
telecasts. In addition, the CET supervises or performs maintenance to
the electronic sign system, which incorporates message programming
and LED board maintenance, as well as maintaining the wiring and
electrical systems for the ground support equipment.
The on-air camera work is done by technicians. The Chief Electronic
Technician is responsible for the training and scheduling of each
airship camera operator.
The Public Relations Specialist is the communications representative
and planning agent with a primary focus on generating public
relations opportunities at the local and national level. The PR
Specialist helps to deploy the airship to televised events,
customer-related initiatives and community-based events. The Public
Relations team also manages the Goodyear blimp’s social media
To get a blimp pilot's rating one must train on the job since there
are no schools that teach how to pilot a blimp. Potential pilots
should have a commercial rating, whether it’s on airplanes,
helicopters, gliders, or hot air balloons. To transition to airships
is a minimum of 50 hours, but it usually takes a little longer.
If an applicant does not have a commercial rating, he will need 250
hours in airships before getting that commercial airship rating.
Pilots with 1,200 hours and a CFI certificate are preferred. The
length of time it takes to become airship certified depends on the
pilot, but it can take as long as nine months because training has to
be done during the normal scheduled workload.
The length of time pilots spend on the road is a big consideration.
They are on the road in hotels 338 nights a year and normally fly
about 750 hours a year.