I’ve been fascinated with blimps since I was a little girl. I used to get so excited when I spotted the Goodyear or the Metlife blimp fly over. By a fortunate stroke of favor from the universe I was granted the opportunity to take a blimp ride with members of the media, checking off a bucket list adventure I never dreamed I would actually get the chance to do. It’s not like you can just book a blimp ride as you would a plane flight so this is indeed an elite mile high club that not many will never get a chance to say they are apart of.
There are actually only 10 blimps in operation in the United States and about 25 in the world. In fact, the last place in the United States offering commercial blimp rides closed in 2012. Most blimps are used in an advertising/media capacity. The Direct TV blimp was here in Tampa doing media coverage for the College Football National Championship. They fly over 50k miles a year across the country covering major sporting events. Now that’s a nomadic life indeed. Someone asked the pilot where he lived. He replied, “You mean where I get my mail.”
You are seated in the gondola and it holds up to about 9 including the pilot. The balloon is called the envelope and it is filled with helium. Basically it’s just like the movie “UP”. Many people asked me if I was afraid at all, but honestly it never crossed my mind. I’ve already been hang gliding and it’s still on my list to ride in a hot air balloon and paraglide so going airborne doesn’t phase me at all . The night before, my blogger buddy asked if I wanted to go and I jumped at the chance.
So what is the blimp ride like? As our pilot of 25 + years Terry Dillard described it, it’s a lot like being in a canoe. There’s a lot of gentle rocking back and forth and the occasional dip. Essentially we are riding the wind. I felt just a little bit of queasiness on the decent due to a bit more rocking but it was tolerable. If you are a person who gets motion sickness, this might be an adventure to cross off your list. Sorry no blimp for you. If I had known I would have taken a motion sickness medication as a precaution.
At our fastest we got up to about 50mph and at our slowest we cruised against the wind at 12 mph. We flew from the Tampa Executive Airport about 14 miles over to Raymond James Stadium, the site of the big game. We even saw the Goodyear blimp hovering nearby.
Fun fact: The Goodyear blimp is actually a Zeppelin, which means its “balloon” has a frame. The Direct TV Airship is a true blimp so the only thing giving the envelope a shape is the helium that inflates it.
Our cruising altitude was 1000ft, which is just low enough to still be able to make out landmarks and buildings with ease. They have to fly low enough for people to see the advertisements. The views of the Tampa Bay Area from the blimp ride are unmatched to anything I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s not everyday you get to soar leisurely over a major city. In total our entire trip was just about an hour.
Strap in and enjoy the slideshow of photographs from the air.
Here are more cool facts about the Direct TV blimp:
- It’s called the DIRECTV Lightship because the giant envelope (The part that says DIRECTV), illuminates from within with two (2) 1,000 watt light bulbs making it visible even at night! This Proprietary technology to Van Wagner Airship Group is also the reason the airship will be mistaken for a UFO quite often…
- They have the world’s only 2100 Sq. Ft. LED screen capable of displaying full color and motion video and script during both day and night!
- They have aircraft engines on each side and instrumental panels used by their certified and experienced pilots during flight. The pilots are in constant communication with the ground crew and receive clearance from Air Traffic Controllers all over the country.
- The pilot communicates with the ground crew with hand signals, using radio for back up. Airships were invented before the radio and hand signals have been handed down from generation to generation of airship crews.
- A ground support crew of 18 travels with the airship and at least 1 person will monitor it 24/7.
- Airships have the best safety record of any type of aircraft.
- The DIRECTV Airship uses less fuel in 2 weeks of operation than a 747 Jumbo Jet uses to taxi to the end of the runway for takeoff!!
- The airship does not get packed into a huge box and shipped to the next city. It stays inflated and it flies everywhere it goes.
Come along for the ride with me via the video! You can follow along with the travels of the Direct TV blimp by following them on twitter: @dtvblimp
There was no compensation for the Direct TV Blimp ride. I was invited with media by ATT. All opinions are my own.
Is riding in a blimp on your bucket list? Would you do it if you had the chance? What other unique aerial adventures are you itching to try? Let’s chat about it in the comments below.