What It Takes To Fly The $21 Million Goodyear Blimp
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What It Takes To Fly The $21 Million Goodyear Blimp

September 8, 2019


– You know, everybody
likes to see a blimp. It’s just so big, you can’t miss it. It’s so unique to watch, and they’re not even a
national icon but a world icon. Folks all over the world
know the Goodyear Blimp. It’s such a unique piece
of aviation history. – It’s such a small niche of aviation that I didn’t even realize
that this job existed, really, until I found it. – It’s always challenging,
and it’s super fun. Yeah, it’s all I want to
do the rest of my career. – [Narrator] The Goodyear Blimp has been flying for 100 years. The company began building
its own airships in 1919. – I’d like to tow you and your team of surfboard riders behind the airship. – Gee, I’d love to try that. What do you say, boys? – Let’s go! – [Narrator] The blimp’s
primary objective? To be an aerial ambassador for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. But the blimp that flies today
isn’t technically a blimp. From 1919 to 2014, it was a blimp, classified
as a nonrigid airship, meaning that its balloon, or envelope, had no internal structure. But in 2014, in collaboration
with the Zeppelin company in Germany, Goodyear
began flying a new model, incorporating a structure
made of carbon fiber and aluminum inside of the envelope, classifying the airship as semirigid. The cost of the updated airship is reportedly around $20 million. – It’s such a tremendous
leap forward for us because having the structure inside, being able to connect
everything to that structure, the flight control
system, just an all-around tremendous improvement for
us over the previous models. – [Narrator] Another key
addition to the new model: four powerful propellers that can swivel to create both lift and thrust. – So if you point them
straight up towards the sky, they hold you up like a helicopter, and if you point them forward, they pull you along like an airplane, and infinitely adjustable
anywhere in between there. – [Narrator] And an
especially welcome addition to the updated blimp: a lavatory, which the previous models did not have. Even though it’s no longer
technically a blimp, don’t worry. The company isn’t going to refer to it as the Goodyear semirigid airship. It’s going to remain known
as the Goodyear Blimp. – I’m Jeff Capek. I’m the chief pilot here at the Goodyear Pompano
Beach Airship Base. I learned how to fly the
same way everybody does here. We hire pilots that are already
fixed-wing or helicopter pilots, and then we train
them in-house to fly airships. It could take anywhere from six months to maybe a little over a year to teach a pilot how to fly an airship. – Everybody’s got a little different path, but my story’s a little bit unique in that I started as a
contractor for Goodyear, working mostly cutting
grass at the hangar. I have a picture of me
when I was 7 years old looking in the blimp at
someplace that it parked near where I lived at the time. It was just such a cool,
unique experience, you know, and one that you remember for forever. And then to come back
and get the opportunity to fly them later in
life, it was really cool. – [Narrator] We joined the
crew of the Goodyear Blimp on a Friday morning at the blimp base in Pompano Beach, Florida,
about 40 miles north of Miami. The blimp and its crew of
20 were preparing to travel over 200 miles north to Daytona
to provide aerial coverage for NASCAR at the Daytona
International Speedway. The blimp flies there,
but the crew has to drive. – About 20 of us go on
the road with it together. We’ve got a semitruck,
which is kind of like a rolling maintenance shop,
so we travel pretty heavy. – [Narrator] Three and a half hours later, the crew sets up for the blimp to land at a small airport in New
Smyrna, just outside Daytona. The crew loads the
gondola with extra ballast to keep it grounded. That’s because the blimp is
easily moved by the wind, and because of this, it
needs a big parking spot. – We really need a pretty
big spot to park this thing because it does have to be
able to spin 360 degrees, and the airship itself
is almost 250 feet long, so we need a minimum of
a 500-foot clear circle because it’ll go around
in circles all day long. – [Narrator] After
landing, the ground crew connects the nose of the blimp to a mast. – [Pilot] On the top of the
mast, there’s a cup up there which receives a nose probe
in the nose of the ship. So that probe fits into the
cup in the top of the mast, and it locks it in there,
which holds the ship on the ground when we’re not flying it. – [Narrator] The blimp’s envelope is filled with 300,000
cubic feet of helium. But its engines require fuel. – [Pilot] It’s called Avgas. It’s 100 octane leaded fuel. It’s the same fuel that every piston-powered aircraft runs on. This ship will hold 825 kilos
in three separate tanks, one tank for each engine. – [Narrator] People
driving down the highway pull over to watch the blimp take off. But it wasn’t just people
that were interested in getting a closer look at the blimp. – [Pilot] When it’s time to take off, we move this yellow lever, swivel that up to between
60 and 90 degrees, and then added thrust,
which creates the lift to lift us off the
ground like a helicopter. Once we lift it off the ground, we slowly swivel this
yellow lever forward, which starts creating forward air speed, and the ship starts to
fly aerodynamically. – [Narrator] The flight from New Smyrna to the Daytona Speedway
takes about 20 minutes. The gondola has room for 12 passengers, including the camera
operator and his equipment. – NASCAR is one of our more
challenging events we do. You’ve got a dynamic of
the ship moving around, the cars moving around, so it
can be a challenge at times to keep the cars framed in. – [Narrator] The blimp’s camera is mounted on the front of the
gondola and is reportedly worth between $400,000 and $500,000. The pilots also have a
monitor in the cockpit so they can see the action below and make adjustments if necessary. – We started off circling the track, and then the camera operator requested us to stop in this position here. It’s just a good spot that works well with this camera and the sun angle. – So one of the cool parts
about what the blimp can do is that it can actually just
kinda sit perfectly still. I mean, we are about 1,500
feet in the air right now, but we are parked, essentially, just sitting over the speedway. – [Pilot] We swivel the side engines up, which sort of makes the
ship act as a helicopter, and can hover in one spot right here. The max altitude technically for this blimp is 10,000 feet. I doubt we’ll ever go that high though. We normally stay around
1,000 to 2,000 feet. We like to be nice and low
where people can see us. – [Narrator] After around
five hours in the sky, it was time to head home. So is it fun to fly the Goodyear Blimp? – It’s awesome. Feeling like you’re flying
a boat around in the sky, with the technology and
capability in this one, it’s so much fun to fly. – Great job again today, guys. All of our preparation
looks like it’s paying off. So the race went perfectly, the weather held out great for us, ship’s been great, and we finished a little bit earlier than we thought we would, so good for us. All right, have a good night. See you guys later. Break. – The pilots are only a small piece, and really, without the
crew and the support staff, the airships wouldn’t go
anywhere, so those are the guys that really do the work behind the scenes that nobody realizes happens, and the logistics that
go into moving an airship down the road and maintaining a safe, world-class operation is not a small task.

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  1. Could just imagine no bathroom and one of the pilots opening thr door and peeing and hitting someones car with the piss

  2. I mean a guy with a grappler and a parachute doesn’t have to pay for that.

  3. I live in New Smyrna. The town where they hold the blimp for the 500. It’s so weird so go down US-1 and seeing the huge blimp

  4. "We like to stay where people can see us" they act like if they were 5-8000 feet someone wouldn't notice a nearly 300foot long blimp in the sky lmao, maybe I'm wrong, but holy shit 😂

  5. If its been up 100 years why haven't i seen one in canad Alberta. Is it our DAMN wind n weather conditions.

  6. it be kind of cool if theyd have it solar powerd so it doesnt have to land than see of you can fit something like a tinyhouse on the bottem

  7. And in a true plot twist Every corporate Goodyear has Thousands per year taken out of there profit to keep that thing up in the air.

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