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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Flying Blimps

   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 experience.
     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.
     T 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 automotive shop.
     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 conducted.
     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 content.
     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.

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