Blimp my ride!

11th July 2012

If HiQ is the retail arm of Goodyear, then the Blimp is surely its big eye in the sky. First taking to the air in 1925, the airship has been travelling all over the world, adorned with the iconic Wingfoot logo, keeping its birds-eye focus on some of the biggest events in the world - from music festivals to the Superbowl and more.

We grounded the Chief Pilot of the Goodyear Blimp Mark Finney, to ask him about his career, highlights and Blimp-sickness!

Hi Mark, it is great to meet you! What made you want to become an airship pilot?

[Mark] It is lovely to meet you too! I flew helicopters in the Navy when I was younger and decided that I fancied a change. One day I spoke to an airship pilot who told me about his career. He had been all around the world and loved every minute of it! He put the idea in my head and I have never looked back!

How do you actually apply to become a Blimp pilot?

[Mark] Well, first you will need to get a flying license, then you need to do a conversion course to an airship and apply! The conversion course takes 120 hours but it is definitely worth it in my opinion!

Flying in the UK we get very windy weather - Do you ever get sea sick or nervous up there when the airship is rocking from side to side?

[Mark] I have to say, at first you feel a bit sea sick, but after a while you get used to it.  I have not been sick yet! I suppose I would have to admit that when I finally got my wings for flying airships and went on my check flight I was pretty nervous!

I can imagine your first flight would be fairly nerve wrecking! How long can the blimp be in air for before needing to land?

[Mark] Depending on the winds and fuel burn, we can normally flight for eight to twelve hours. One time however we modified one of our airships and it stayed flying for over twenty four hours!

What is the highest that the Goodyear Blimp can legally fly at?

[Mark] My crew and I can fly the Goodyear Blimp up to ten thousand feet.  After that altitude the cabin has to be pressurised.  We have however designed blimps in the past which can fly up to 70,000 feet for communication and military purposes!                                                                                                         

Wow, that's high! You must get a great view from up there.What would you say was the most interesting thing you have ever seen from the blimp?                                                                

 [Mark] Of course, we get to see the world from a different perspective which is very interesting. I would have to say that the most interesting thing I have seen from the Blimp was watching whales off the coast in South Africa. That really was an amazing once in a lifetime experience. 

That sounds beautiful. You obviously get to travel a lot in your job, if you could fly anywhere, where would you go?

I would have to say Table Mountain in South Africa

Obviously you often film football matches and other big events, what would you say was the best event you have ever witnessed from the Blimp?  

[Mark] I will always remember when we flew over Barcelona for the Millennium. The fire work display was amazing!

 That does sound great. Is there one city that every time you fly over you look out for one area that's has an amazing view?

London is very special, but my favourite is Manhattan  NYC, especially at night.  The whole sky line glows.                                                           

Is there anywhere you don't like flying?

Every place is very special, but if I had to say one place it would be Turkey as it gets very windy there.   

Finally, what would you say has been the highlight of your Blimp Pilot Career? 

[Mark] I really enjoyed flying in Japan. It is an amazing country with lovely people.                                                                                                         

Well thank you for talking to us today, it has been great hearing all about what being a Blimp pilot is really like!

[Mark] No problem! It has been great talking to you.