Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blimping along.....

With Hangar 1 Vodka at Cape Cod Airfield.......

As my regular readers know I often spend some of my down time at Cape Cod Airfield in Marstons Mills.  I love flying and love that airfield more then I can say.  And the motor heads that run the place are really nice guys.  When Chris told me that a blimp was coming in to the airfield for a few days, I told him I was getting a ride in it, somehow, some way.  They told me that when the Hood Milk blimp use to summer at the airfield you couldn't even get near it.  Hmmm.....

So when the blimp landed I ran up to the pilot who flew it, introduced myself, and welcomed him to Cape Cod.  His name is Bret Viets and what a nice guy.  I immediately asked about a ride and he said we could probably arrange it.  So the next day I turned up at the airfield and spoke to the Hangar 1 Vodka people and got on the ride list.  Most of the others on the ride list were news people (tv, newspapers) and a couple that won their ride through a radio call in.

It was a cloudy, hazy day and that effects the lift of the helium in the blimp so they were only taking 2 riders at a time which slowed things down considerably.  But they had the bar and grills going so you could eat and drink while you waited (I didn't do either but I did get a t-shirt).  Finally the crew chief came up to me and said "we can get you on the next ride if you don't mind sitting in the co-pilot seat."  Huh?  Honey I'd fly the thing if you asked me!   So in I go and sitting right next to my New Best Friend, Bret the pilot.  I'm flying with the people that won their trip on the radio call in (nice people, Renee and Tom).

I'm sort of a science nut and I peppered Bret with a bazillion questions about how a blimp works, how they manage the helium, where they get the helium, top altitude, airspeed, engine size, etc.  I also found out (while I was over the ocean) that helium is a smaller molecule then the fabric the blimp is made out of and constantly leaks out (which is why your helium balloons are flat after a day).  And since I do have a fair amount of flying experience I'll tell you, in my opinion, flying a blimp in nice calm sunny weather isn't that difficult.  But you have to constantly manage the helium and that takes experience. And in difficult weather forget about it, I'm staying on the ground.

I found it interesting that the reporter from the Cape Cod Times who got a ride in it and wrote about it on Wednesday was a bit nervous about it (he should try flying upside down or in a huge DC-3 taking off from a short grass runway).  I found the entire ride to be like sitting in my living room.  Bret is a very experienced pilot and such a nice guy.  It is a very slow, relaxing ride and the views are great.   Over the water we came down lower to look for whales (didn't see any but how cool is that).

I did find out I'm in a very elite group, there are only 12 blimps flying world wide right now and the company that owns the Hangar 1 Vodka blimp, Lightship, owns more then half of the blimps flying today. (Hangar 1 leases the blimp from Lightship).  Lightship also owns the Snoopy blimps too. (my readers and friends know how much I LOVE Snoopy).  Most of those blimps in the air don't give rides so I was really lucky (not to mention how charming I was, seriously I charmed my way on this ride).

I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Bret my pilot was so nice and the Hanger 1 Vodka group was delightful and a lot of fun.  What a great experience!  I never would have had it if it wasn't for my association with Cape Cod Airfield, Chris Siderwicz Sr and Chris Siderwicz Jr, so I thank them sincerely.  If you have not been to Cape Cod Airfield and had a biplane ride, you should try it, its equally as fun, has the same views as I had in the blimp - just a little bit faster.

FYI, I found out that the term "blimp" is for laypeople, those of us in the know say airship.  And now I'm an experienced airship flyer!
(ya gotta click on the pictures for a larger view they are fantastic!)
See my Blimping Over Cape Cod video on YouTube.

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