On Saturday, I had the opportunity to do something that I’d always been curious about. I took a ride in the MetLife Blimp as it glided over the Wilson County Fair.
If I had actually created a Bucket List, then I guess that would be one item crossed off.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I drove up to Smyrna Airport Saturday morning for a photo session and tour of the blimp. For those who’ve never seen one up close, the basket, called the gondola, is a lot smaller than you’d expect. There was room for the pilot, myself, another reporter, and one empty seat. I was fascinated by all the stuff I learned about the different blimps (MetLife has three) and how theirs compared with other companies blimps.
But of course, the thing I was really excited about was getting in the gondola and taking off.
It was so different than any other time I’ve been in the air, because all of those trips were on commercial airplanes. The blimp cruised at about 30 miles per hour, a far cry from the 500 mph-600 mph (give or take) that your typical Boeing 737 would hit.
The blimp was like a boat in the sky. Just as boats dip and rise with the waves, the blimp dips and rises based on air currents. One adjustment I had to make Saturday was shifting from the comforting air conditioner in my car to a couple windows open on the blimp. Cruising at around 1,000 feet helped in the breeze department, so it wasn’t too bad, but I still came away a bit sweaty when we returned to the ground.
It was worth it though.
I got some great photos of the fairgrounds from the blimp, and got a cool story to tell all at the same time. It’s a day I won’t soon forget. The pilot made things even more enjoyable by explaining all the different events he had flown over, the complaints from some of those event managers (such as the blimp’s shadow causing problems with a camera shot during filming) and even how he had found his job.
It’s not everyday you get to hear a story about a guy finding a job opening for a blimp pilot on CraigsList.
If given the chance, I’d love to take another ride. I also have a feeling I’d have several eager bodies that wanted to accompany me. I got plenty of “I’m jealous” messages when I told people I’d done it. So, cross one off the nonexistent bucket list for me please.
Kimberly Jordan is The Democrat’s general assignment reporter. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.