SLIDESHOW: WDRB goes aboard the Goodyear Blimp
Goodyear Blimps have been soaring through the skies since 1920.
Tuesday, August 5th 2014, 3:47 pm EDT
Wednesday, August 6th 2014, 5:13 am EDT
By: Toni Konz and Jared Brown
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - It can be called a rigid airship or a semi-rigid airship. It is also referred to as by its more common name: the blimp. Goodyear is a company associated with the enduring icon.
At any given time, there are six to eight blimps flying throughout the U.S. Goodyear typically has three of those blimps in the sky.
Goodyear has been in business since 1898. The company's first blimp took to the sky in 1920. The blimp adds to that legacy with a stop in Louisville for coverage of this week's PGA tournament happening at the Valhalla Golf Club. "TNT asked us for coverage of the tournament all weekend," Matt Lussier, a Goodyear pilot, said.
When planning flight trips for what sports events to cover, Lussier said plans are laid out based on which areas of the country have the most event offerings.
"Spirit of Innovation" is the name of the Goodyear Blimp that will be covering this week's PGA tournament. The blimp, which is stationed in Pompano Beach, Florida, made a four-day voyage to Louisville. When the blimp is flying in the air for any sporting event, one pilot and one camera operator are usually on board the blimp, with another crew of about 20 people working from the ground.
Three to four pilots usually travel with one blimp. There are a total of between 35 and 40 blimp pilots in the world. Pilots travel between 50 to 100 days a year. In order to be qualified to steer a blimp, pilots must have a couple thousand hours of flight experience. Lussier also said Goodyear traditionally likes for its pilots to have management experience as well.
Lussier, who told his parents as a child that he wanted to be a bird, began taking flying lessons at the age of 14. He's been a Goodyear pilot for the past three and a half years.
"It's completely different from flying an airplane," Lussier said. One difference Lussier described was how the nose of the blimp must be pointed toward to ground for descent, unlike an airplane which can be steered in a given direction. He also said it takes about 200 to 300 hours of training for a pilot to be ready to fly a blimp. The hours spread out from six months to one year.
Lussier refers to the blimp as the "world's largest windsock." The shelf life of any given blimp is about 12 to 14 years. Once it's inflated with helium, the blimp never gets deflated throughout it's use.
Pilots who cover sporting events say they usually fly above a site before an event in order to become familiar with how its layout, to plan out how to get the best possible camera shots.
In addition to sporting events, blimp flights are also used as fundraisers, with people bidding on flights at auctions. In 2013, auctioned flights aboard the Spirit of Innovation brought in just under $250,000.
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