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Always a Great Seat at the Game, if You Can Fly a Blimp

Category: Business,Finance

Taylor Deen, 31, is a senior airship pilot for Goodyear in Carson, Calif.

How did you end up piloting a blimp?

After high school, I attended a pilot training school in San Diego, where I got my private pilot license in 2005 and my commercial license in 2007. Then I took a month of training at American Flyers in Santa Monica, Calif., to become a flight instructor. By the spring of 2008, they offered me a job to teach, and I took it.

A year later, I was teaching a class on the ground when someone came in and told us there was a blimp on a low approach. Everyone ran to the window to watch it. We were only about 200 feet from the landing area. It seemed to fill the sky, and I was in awe.

Almost a year later, I was looking for work and typed “pilot jobs” into Google. This Goodyear job popped up. I joined them in 2011.

How many pilots are licensed to fly blimps in the world?

About 40 to 50 pilots are flying fewer than 10 active blimps in the world today. Only a few I know of are women.

What does it feel like to fly in a blimp and to pilot one?

Most people compare the feeling to being in a big cruise ship. It shifts slightly with the winds, just like the effect ocean waves have on cruise liners and other ships.

Part of the excitement is that the gondola — where passengers sit — has large windows, and, hovering at such low altitudes, the views are breathtaking.

As pilots, we have to be aware of more than just the aerodynamics. We use gas laws and calculate lift capacity based on constantly changing variables such as temperature, pressure, passenger weights and fuel load.

Goodyear’s airships are equipped with the basic tools all pilots use: fly-by-wire flight controls, electronic flight display, Garmin GPS, weather radar, etc.

We use engines that swivel. This allows us great maneuverability in the air and the capability to launch and land the airship vertically as well as to maintain higher cruise speeds.

Can anyone book a flight as a passenger?

No, we don’t take reservations. We do offer rides to our Goodyear dealers around the country, and we also donate blimp rides to nonprofit organizations for charity auctions.

The majority of our time in the air involves providing aerial television coverage of sports and entertainment events, including N.C.A.A. football, the N.F.L.’s “Monday Night Football,” the U.S. Open golf tournament, N.B.A. basketball and Major League Baseball.

We also spend considerable time traveling across the country to get to the events we cover. The top speed of our blimps is just 70 knots — that’s 80 miles per hour. So going from my base in Carson to, say, Cleveland for the N.B.A. playoffs in 2017 took seven or eight days with overnight stops.

Do the television networks pay Goodyear to shoot the sports events?

We provide aerial coverage in exchange for Goodyear brand mentions within the programming. We have been providing aerial coverage since 1955.


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