Somebody Has to Fly the Goodyear Blimp. Getting your pilot’s license is just the start of a life in the world of aviation that can really take you anywhere. While there is a lot you can do with just a private pilot’s license, you can take that starting point and go into helicopter flight, flying gliders or even on up into larger aircraft until you get licensed to fly the big jets for the big airlines.
But one specialization that you may or may not have thought of is flying those blimps that you see over stadiums during ball games or over the parades at holidays. We tend to take for granted that they are up there doing whatever Goodyear or whoever owns the blimp wants them to do all by themselves. But somebody has to fly those blimps and your pilot’s license is a good launch into what will become a very fascinating job that is unlike anything else in aviation.
Becoming a blimp pilot means finding the right company with the organization that is staffing for that job. But flying a blimp is not a fast paced job in term of the flying you will do. Most of the time a blimp travels very slowly because, obviously, a blimp is large and cumbersome and it really cannot maneuver that quickly. It is designed to hover in place and move slowly over the destination such as a ball game so the top speed you will reach in the air might be thirty five miles per hour.
Another big difference when flying a blimp is that you will hover the craft fairly close to the ground compared to a faster moving airplane. Sometimes you will fly as low as 1000 to 1500 feet which means at that height, you can actually see the people on the ground and at that speed, you can wave at them.
Because blimps are used almost entirely for promotional or recreational purposes, your role as the pilot of a blimp almost puts you into show business yourself. You will have a much greater interaction with people who come to see the blimp so you will enjoy far more socialization that you might as a private pilot which sometimes can be a bit of a lonely job.
By the very nature of why companies keep blimps, if you land that pilots job, you are going to be traveling virtually nonstop. So be sure you really like to see the world and that this kind of travel is not going to disrupt family life. It’s a great job if you are young and have not started your family yet and you just want to have some adventure.
If you wish to make becoming a blimp pilot a real objective, take your existing pilot’s license and become certified as a lighter than air pilot as well. It won’t be that much more work and it positions you perfectly to fly a blimp. As you wait for the chance to get in the door with the few organizations that do operate blimps, you can go ahead and log some good experience using your pilots license in a charter situation so you have a solid resume of flying when you are ready to specialize flying blimps.
The “big break” you will be looking for is just to get in on the ground floor with a company that owns and operates a blimp. You may have to serve your time as part of the ground crew of the blimp but that by itself is a fascinating job. Here is where you will learn the technical aspects of maintaining a blimp and the safety issues that go into keeping a big vehicle like that aloft.
Your flight experience then will put you in line to apply for the pilot or co pilot position when it becomes available. And by becoming an experienced crew member, you will be in an ideal place if the company decides to add a blimp and needs a whole new crew including a pilot. While the pay of a blimp pilot is not going to make you rich, you will see the world and you will have one of the most unique jobs in aviation. And if you get to fly over the Super Bowl and have a birds eye view of the biggest game of the year, well that’s just another one of the great perks of being a blimp pilot.