The Flight of a Lifetime!

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Anyone who has known me for a long time, knows that I have a mild obsession with blimps. I’m not really sure why but since I was a little girl I have always been fascinated by them. I can remember seeing the MetLife Blimp over southern California and exclaiming “mommy a bimp”  So when I received a call last week from Jill Meridith (she oversees all of the Riddle bloggers) asking if I wanted to ride in the Goodyear Blimp, I couldn’t have been more excited!! Dreams really do come true!!! Earlier in the year Embry-Riddle had teamed up with Goodyear and featured an ERAU alumnus and current Blimp pilot based out of Carson, California in different magazines! This partnership opened up the opportunity for a few select members of the Embry-Riddle family to get a once in a lifetime ride on the blimp! I was so lucky to be one of these selected students!

On Presidents Day I was accompanied by 10 fellow Embry-Riddle students as well as a few faculty members to the New Smyrna Airport just south of Daytona Beach. As we all gathered together in the waiting area we couldn’t have been more excited. Two of the pilots walked in and immediately all of our faces lit up! They began with a little bit a small talk and then went into speaking about the current winds and weather conditions, and suddenly it hit us. I got that immediate sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized they had to weather (cancel) the flight due to the unstable winds. You could hear a pin drop in the room! The look in everyones faces was such shock and disappointment. Although we were disappointed, as students, pilots, and professionals in the aviation industry we understood that safety always comes first.

Luckily the day was not all lost, the pilots and maintience crew compensated by taking us over to the landing field for the blimp! We were able to watch the blimp come down for a landing which was scary yet awesome! It was then tethered to a mast and stabilized by distributing sandbags throughout the gondola. We were able to meet three different pilots and speak with them about how the blimp flys and also what it takes to actually become a blimp pilot! We each took turns going inside the gondola and being able to sit in the pilots seat! Even though we were disappointed about the flight being cancelled; just the opportunity to be so close to the blimp and also really get to see and speak with the crew was an unreal experience!

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Coming in to attach the nose to the tether!

 

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Hanging out with the chief pilot for Goodyear

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The following day I got a call saying that five spots had opened up on the blimp for the following morning, and that the Embry-Riddle students had made such a great impressions of the Goodyear staff that they decided to give the spots to us! I could not have been more thrilled; I now had yet another opportunity of a lifetime!!! We woke up early and headed over to the airport again, this time more nervous than excited! We didn’t want to be let down twice in a row. We get all the way to the blimp and are just about ready to board when the generator fails!! Yet another heart wrenching disappointment!! Except this time the amazing Goodyear crew fixed the problem and replaced the generator. Suddenly I found myself headset on, adrenaline running, sitting in the gondola of the Goodyear blimp ready for takeoff!! Finally!!! 

We took off and headed east over Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach!

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Beautiful day to fly! And if you look really hard you can see the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pads all the way down the coast!

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The coolest shadow I’ve ever seen flying!

 

 

We flew up and down the coast for about an hour, the pilot showed us the difference of flying a blimp in a headwind versus a tailwind. In a headwind the blimp practically hovers, making it ideal for shooting events like the Daytona 500! To my surprise the ride was extremely smooth, we were able to move around the gondola and take pictures of the beach, the inlet, the Embry-Riddle campus, and even the speedway!

 

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Special thanks to Deb who made this all possible!

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The last few days were definitely a roller coaster of emotions, but it was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life. Not many people get the opportunity to get up so close and personal with the Goodyear blimp, the pilots, and the crew. And even less can say that they have actually taken a flight on one! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity, and it is all thanks to the amazing reputation and connections that Embry- Riddle has.

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ERAU Alumnus William Bayliss and current Goodyear pilot!

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Dreams really do come true when you least expect it! Its official I can cross a blimp ride off my bucket list! I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I can’t thank Embry-Riddle and Goodyear enough for this once in a lifetime opportunity!!

Until next time!

-Kealey

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