Bay Area residents are used to seeing blimps in the sunny Florida skies, but it's not very often that we see the granddaddy of them all. The Goodyear blimp 'Spirit of Innovation' has motored up from its home base in South Florida just in time for Super Bowl XLIII.
At nearly 200 feet long and 60 feet high, the blimp will be hard to miss -- especially with that unique sound generated by its twin propeller engines. And that's the idea. Goodyear has been in the blimp business since 1925, and the company's airships have a rich history of appearances at the country's biggest events.
"It's the Super Bowl; we're here," explained company spokeswoman Sara Waldman.
For pilot Brian Comer, this will be his fourth 'super' appearance. The Syracuse, New York native said he enjoys flying in the sunny south.
"Tampa Bay is very scenic. It's really a beautiful place to fly. The skyline of Tampa is really nice and of course the stadium is right there," he offered.
The weather, of course, is a big reason why. Ever since the first airships took to the sky, their lighter-than-air nature has engendered a more intimate relationship with the winds than their winged counterparts enjoy.
"You do get very in tune with the weather and the weather patterns," Comer explained. "Being an airship pilot, you're practically a meteorologist. The airship is so dramatically affected by the atmosphere."
Blimp pilots control their craft with a steering wheel, but not like the one in your car. The blimp's wheel sits on the pilot's right-hand side -- he rotates it foreword to descend and backwards to climb. The ship's steering is controlled by two rudder pedals on the floor.
The weight of the blimp -- 14,000 lbs. -- is offset by the helium in the envelope. That's what makes a blimp a blimp, after all.
But how does it ride? Imagine sailing through the sky. The blimp rolls and pitches through the air much like a large ship on the water. And the view it provides during its slow cruise is unmatched.
"I don't want to say I've seen it all, but I've seen quite a bit of it," Comer continued.
And it's a ride that Comer, even after two decades in the sky, hopes will continue for a while.
"Goodyear's really the number-one job to have if you're an airship pilot," he added. "I'd love to finish my career flying."