What an amazing, extraordinary, wonderful, and magical expedition we had today. An opportunity to have a ride in the Goodyear blimp is a once in a lifetime experience. The Goodyear blimp, named Spirit of Innovation, is housed in Pompano Beach, Florida, which is the city next to where I live. So many times during the 15 years I have lived in Florida, I have watched the Goodyear blimp fly overhead. I always wished silently that I could have a ride in it. I never dreamed that it would become a reality. Thanks to the Goodyear staff and crew, and a friend of mine who got in touch with Goodyear, today my dream and wish became a reality.
The weather cooperated and I was able to have a ride in the Goodyear Blimp, along with my mom Florence, my sister Alice, and my special friends Pam and Jeff, and Sue. It was an experience beyond words. Doug, Donna, and entire Goodyear crew made this such a memorable and special day for me, and the guests they allowed me to bring. Matt, the pilot, made it extra special with the stories he told us, and his sense of humor added lots of laughter. He even took some of the pictures both inside and outside of the blimp. THANK YOU GOODYEAR for this memorable experience. It is a dream come true. Now, when I see the blimp flying overhead, sailing through the sky, I will remember my time in the blimp and relive it over and over again.
I posted a photo album with 355 pictures. There’s also a link on the top of my webpage to my full photo gallery.
The day before our flight, I went by the blimp base and took pictures of the blimp coming out of the hangar and taking off. Today, I was able to get pictures of it landing from the flight before ours, and also after we finished our ride, the blimp went back into the hangar due to an approaching storm, so I took pictures of that as well.
Blimp rides are a way that Goodyear helps charitable organizations raise funds. Here in South Florida, Goodyear’s generosity helped raise about $250,000. I am very involved with the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life event for Deerfield Beach/Lighthouse Point/Hillsboro Beach. For several years, the Pompano Beach Goodyear blimp organization gave our Relay certificates to auction off as a fundraiser for our event. In fact, this was always one of the most sought after auction items. It most definitely gave a boost to the amount of money we raised, and it also made the winners of the auctions very happy. After meeting the Goodyear staff and crew, I know how much it means to them to be able to help charities and organizations in the local area, and surrounding communities, to raise funds in order to help the people, animals, and other organizations served by these non-profit agencies.
In June 2006, the City of Lighthouse Point, where I worked as the city clerk for 10 years, had its 50th Anniversary Celebration. During several of the events, the Goodyear blimp flew overhead with a message of congratulations on the blimp’s electronic banner. It was viewed by everyone in attendance.
Today started out as a sunny day with white fluffy clouds. Before we began our ride we all watched an informative video showing us how we would board the blimp and what to expect on our ride. When it was our time, we were escorted out to the blimp on a golf cart, and we got to watch the people disembark from the ride before ours.
My group decided that I would sit in the co-pilot seat for take-off. It was fascinating to watch the pilot and crew work together to get us all boarded, and then prepare for take-off. We could tell that the teamwork was done with precision, I’m guessing they have done this thousands of times. Between the pilots and crew it takes about 13-18 people to launch and land the blimp. I won’t go into all the details of what it entails, you can read that on some brochures in my photo album, and also on the Goodyear Blimp website. I will tell you that it takes a lot of strength and coordination of the crew to handle this monumental task. I know from personal experience what it takes when I help crew for a hot air balloon, and this is so much larger and heavier. It’s evident from talking with and watching everyone involved at Goodyear that they love their job and they think they have the best job in the world. How great is it that they get to let people have this amazing experience, and grant dreams and wishes for others.
After we boarded the blimp, we put on our headphones so we could all talk with each other and the pilot. We watched the crew work together, and then all of a sudden we were airborne, sailing through the sky. It was beyond words. I was asked how it compares with being up in a hot air balloon. In some ways it is similar. Being on the ground, then within seconds being airborne. In the gondola of the hot air balloon, which holds the pilot and 2 passengers, all of us standing close together, we are not enclosed at all, we just float through the sky, and depend on the direction of the winds at various altitudes for the direction we go. We can look out and see in all directions, and the only sound is when the propane burner ignites for a few seconds at a time, or if we are low enough to hear dogs barking on the ground below. In the blimp gondola, we are sitting in comfortable seats, looking out the windows which are open so we can feel the air, we can get up and change seats, and look out to see what is either on our side of the blimp, or go to a different seat and look at that view. The pilot has control of direction the blimp goes, and the wheel called the uppy downy thingy, also known as the Elevator Wheel, allows the pilot to go higher or closer to the ground. The engine is a little bit loud, however, the headphones allow us to communicate easily.
Sitting in the co-pilot seat provides a wider view of what’s in front of us and to the side. All of the seats provide an amazing view and experience. We took turns sitting in different seats so everyone could see from different perspectives. Because we had different views during our hour long flight, I passed my camera around so different pictures could be taken, and get the others views of what they saw. You can tell by looking at the pictures how calm and clear the water is in the ocean. Some days, it looks entirely different. I’m really glad it was so beautiful today, it enabled us to see the reefs, manatees, and the truly beautiful color of the water.
We flew over the Atlantic Ocean past Pompano Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Lighthouse Point, Deerfield Beach, and Boca Raton. It was very interesting looking at buildings, roads, and other things that we often walk along or drive by such as the piers, and sidewalks along the beach. Matt, the pilot, said that often they see dolphins and sharks. We didn’t see any of those on our flight, but we did see a sea turtle, and three manatees. The manatees were young ones and were close to the shore, Matt pointed out that there was a person next to one of the manatees, probably petting it, which is against the law.
It was really interesting flying above the Hillsboro Lighthouse and Inlet. Besides seeing what a beautiful color the ocean was, we got to see the surrounding grounds. Matt positioned the blimp so that we could see the shadow of the blimp in the ocean near the lighthouse. Matt says the blimp’s shadow is called the blimp whale, and he told us the story about how the shadow of the blimp became known as the blimp whale.
The short version is that a passenger a while ago wanted to see something swimming in the ocean, and the pilot said there is a blimp whale, and told her to look down. He said that whatever the blimp did, such as turn left, right, etc. the blimp whale would do. It amazed her that the blimp whale did the same thing. She really believed there was such a thing as a blimp whale, she did not realize it was the shadow of the blimp. The story was better as Matt explained it, but I don’t want to give away the entire story.
When we flew over Lighthouse Point, the city where I now live, and used to work for, I was able to recognize several points of interest. DeGroff Park is one of the notable sites. It’s a park that consists of 3.1 acres on the Intracoastal Waterway. The city developed the park several years ago, after it was acquired by the county. A gazebo, walking paths, and lots of trees and landscaping were done in the park. It’s absolutely beautiful and peaceful.
We also got to see numerous coral reefs below the ocean’s surface.
As our flight continued, off in the distance, we saw a storm approaching. It was really an amazing site to see from up in the sky. We could see it coming towards us, and so we headed back to the blimp base. We got there ahead of the storm. Because the storm was rapidly approaching, the blimp was going to be put back into the hangar after we landed, and we got to watch the process. Of course, I took pictures of that as well.
After the Spirit of Innovation landed, and she was secured, the crew helped us all disembark. We all not only enjoyed our flight, including meeting some of the staff and crew, but also watching everyone work together and seeing how much they care about their guests and ensuring that we all had a fun and safe flight is so evident among the entire Goodyear personnel at all levels of their operation. My guests and I cannot adequately express our appreciation in words alone. We are so grateful for the experience we had with everyone at the Goodyear blimp base in Pompano Beach, Florida. We were able to watch and experience the process of coordination and cooperation between the pilot and crew for the landing, and also for securing the blimp and bringing it back into the hangar. The blimp is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She is never left alone, and every hour she is checked for her helium and other levels to make sure all is well. There are many ground vehicles that travel with the blimp and her crew to make sure they have everything they need, should an occasion arise.
After we landed and the ground crew got the blimp secured, the door in the back inside of the blimp behind where we sat opened up and one of the crew stood in the doorway. Matt told us that he had been on the flight all along and was hidden in the back compartment of the blimp. Since Matt has a great sense of humor, we weren’t sure whether or not it was true… we were told after a few seconds, that he just boarded through the back door.
Thank you all so very much for sharing this journey and adventure with me, and my guests.
Matt showed us a picture that someone sent him of the blimp flying past the Hillsboro Lighthouse, and he sent the picture to me. I thought you might want to see it. This is an actual photo, not a postcard.
PS: Today, June 17th, I was out with my mom, driving back from lunch, and we saw the Goodyear blimp flying out over the ocean. We both looked at it and very fondly remembered our ride last week.