NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — From the Super Bowl and the World Series to the U.S. Open blimps have become familiar sights, but less than 60 people in the United States are licensed to fly them.
For the past 15 years the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield blimp has become a community regular, CBS 2’s Alex Denis reported.
The blimp has been seen cruising in the sky over the Jersey Shore, but creating a smooth path for the flying billboard isn’t always easy.
There are only 25 blimps in operation around the world and 10 in the U.S. where 56 pilots are certified to fly them.
“There are more space shuttle pilots in the world than there are blimp pilots,” Pilot Terry Dillard told CBS 2’s Denis at the Allaire Airport in Farmingdale, “I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
Riding in a blimp is a different experience from being in an airplane or a helicopter. The aircraft glides through the sky with a light bounce and the fate of the flight is heavily dictated by weather and the surfaces below.
The Horizon blimp holds 3 passengers and a driver. The blimp doesn’t have a bathroom but there are windows and a radio.
From 1,000 ft. in the air the blimp offers a spectacular view of the sky and the ground. Wheels on either side of the driver’s seat are used to direct the blimp up and down and foot pedals steer the craft right and left.
The blimp is held in the air by 68,000 cubic feet of helium and twin 80 engines which can shut off mid-flight.
Landing and lift off are the most crucial times in a blimp flight, both involve a coordinated dance between the pilot and the ground crew.
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