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texasliberty
01-04-2008, 11:24 PM
Well, I finally did it. I accrued enough purchases, cashed in my chips, went to Tampa and rode the Blimp :)

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239715389-M-LB

People asked for a story of a Blimp ride, so here's we go.

I sent in the receipts and Bryce called me up and arranged the ride and got me Elijah's number. It's hard to get a view of where the Blimp will be a few weeks out, which can drive airfare out, but I booked one of those travelocity last-minute vacation packages to keep the price down and it wasn't too bad. I knew from following the blimp postings that the blimp is very affected by weather and I should allow more than one possible day in case it was grounded, and I took the first available day so if we got grounded I could fly on a later day while I was still in Tampa. As it turned out, a huge cold front moved into Tampa, grounding the blimp yesterday, which was my travel day out to Tampa anyway. We had some coordinating phone calls. The Blimp is staying at Fantasy of Flight, south of Tampa; it was coming in to pick up a local Fox News reporter at noon, so I arranged to meet it at a local regional airfield. On the way to the airfield I was driving down the highway and suddenly the Blimp appeared! You could see it quite a ways off and when you got up nearer could read the banners quite clearly. It hung over the highway and everyone was slowing to look at it! Very cool! I was driving, so I didn't get a picture.

When I arrived at the airfield, Elijah was on the phone with the reporter, who was canceling. I met up with the other riders. We had two Blimp customers, a reporter for Cornell's student newspaper, and an organizer from a local Meetup group (the Blimp crew has been giving open seats to Meetup organizers, which is a great move because they do a lot of work promoting the Blimp Tour and organizing local support for it), plus Elijah and Daniel the Blimpographer. Elijah gave us Ron Paul Air Force hats and laminated necklace access passes that say Blimponaut and Ron Paul Blimp Tour Passenger, with the Ron Paul Air Force logo on them. We waited for a while while Elijah made a flurry of coordination calls and the Blimp was out making people do double-takes. After a bit our ears picked up a drone, and shortly the Blimp appeared, soaring triumphantly over the airfield:

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239714545-M-LB

It landed, which is an involved process with an efficient ground crew running out and securing lines. While we were assembling in the parking lot, a Fox News helicopter flew over us and hovered, shooting some footage.

The Blimp is enormous. It's just totally huge. Apparently it's the largest Blimp in North America, the same size as the Goodyear blimp but with a bigger gondola (which is the size of a little bus). Note little ant-like ground crew near the gondola!

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239715199-M-LB

Elijah introduced us to the crew and we boarded. The Blimp floats around some on the ground, so you have to board carefully as it tends to swing. It's very like riding a boat. The Blimp is carefully ballasted and the crew adjusts ballast sandbags in a flurry of activity when you are loaded - it burns fuel as it flies so it gets lighter, so it takes off heavy and lands light. The cabin is extremely nice. It's set up with VIP seating, which means it's very roomy and the seats (which face each other in pairs, like on a train) are really comfortable.
http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239718342-M-LB

They gave a safety briefing and then we launched - foosh! The engines swivel up, so the Blimp can take off at a crazy angle. It's nose pitches up and it goes "shoom" and suddenly all the people are little little people down below. The engines make a loud hum. From obsessively watching the internet video postings and pictures, everything seemed familiar, but the actual experience of riding is just tremendously fun. As soon as it gets airborne you can move around the cabin. It's like riding a sailboat; it pitches up and down, but if you pay a little attention it's fine. The windows open out so you can lean out and take pictures. The whole city hangs there beneath you. We flew at around 1,300 ft and spent a lot of time buzzing highways and giving office workers something to look at :)

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239719541-M-LB

There was actually another blimp out flying, the Outback blimp, which apparently is a regular thing. It was much smaller though. You could see our Blimp's shadow on the ground - it casts a big one!

Cell phones mostly work in the Blimp. I called my boss on my BlackBerry and told him I wasn't at work today because I was out riding the Ron Paul Blimp (I have a very cool boss ;)

I got a good look at the O2 Reactor wireless unit, which is causing Elijah a lot of aggravation, and we worked on it with little success. Apparently it works great outside of Florida cities :( Actually it gets connectivity much of the time, enough to drive the GPS fine, but not enough bandwidth over Tampa to stream video. You can seee on a ping test that there's a lot of latency and some dropped packets. He has a new 4' long giant antenna coming tomorrow morning so they're going to give that a try. After the flight we learned the GPS wasn't tracking, but it was transmitting data the whole time so apparently there was an issue with either the GPS receiver not updating or the website not getting the feed, Elijah was on the phone with programmers debugging it later in the day after the flight. So while the connectivity lapses are frustrating, know that they really are digging into it. But the experience of actually flying in the Blimp is just awesome. You're just chillin', hanging their in the air, waving to the cars, swapping seats and taking photos. It's got to get seen by vast numbers of people; we pretty much did donuts around downtown Tampa.

The reporter interviewed everyone. We talked about the amazing grassroots campaign and how it was able to overcome all kinds of obstacles, and how thing were really happening out there in that part of America that is sick of being ignored.

Elijah gets lots and lots of calls, on and off the Blimp; the breadth of the things that the few Liberty Political staff deal with is amazing. They're talking to reporters, flight crew, weather people, negotiating aspects of operation with the blimp company, talking to equipment vendors and tech support and website people - it really is a very complicated logistical operation. For example, they are not allowed to transport customers point-A to point-B, it has to be point-A to point-A, a vexing aircraft legality point that came out recently and makes life more complicated for the Blimp team. The regulatory environment is quite complex :(

We were the first large customers to fly (there have been others who qualified, but we were the first to actually claim flights, although a number of very deserving organizers have gotten flights). The more stable scheduling is helping a lot, but ironically, the media is becoming more resistant: the list of media personalities who have been offered, and turned down, blimp flights recently is a bit eye opening. I had no idea how aggressive Liberty Political is about promoting; they have been very, but they are hitting resistance. And just to be clear about this, it's basically almost impossible to get a blimp flight until the Ron Paul blimp came around - see this New York Times discussion (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=950DE5DD1030F937A25756C0A96F948260)
or google "blimp rides" and see. So the opportunity to fly on the Blimp is really quite amazing. I'm glad to see some Meetup organizers getting in on it!

When we landed we took about a million photos. Then most of us went out for a late lunch, where we took the opportunity to bend Elijah's ear about some of the more useful forum feedback, which I'll post in a separate thread.

You can see the entire photostream here:
http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239713163

kaleidoscope eyes
01-05-2008, 06:54 AM
Texasliberty, that is just an awesome report, thanks!
I must tell you I'm quite jealous too! ;P
Oh yeah, I'm originally from near Akron, OH and people make a HUGE deal about getting to ride on one of the blimps, it is very, very rare so yes, you really are a lucky duck!
How cool, I like how you tell the activity of the crew, I have feeling some people just think the crew just lazes around all day cruising in comfort watching the world go by.
too bad I couldn't see your pics tho! :(
Yep, great report!

Mckarnin
01-05-2008, 04:16 PM
Well, I finally did it. I accrued enough purchases, cashed in my chips, went to Tampa and rode the Blimp :)

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239715389-M-LB

People asked for a story of a Blimp ride, so here's we go.

I sent in the receipts and Bryce called me up and arranged the ride and got me Elijah's number. It's hard to get a view of where the Blimp will be a few weeks out, which can drive airfare out, but I booked one of those travelocity last-minute vacation packages to keep the price down and it wasn't too bad. I knew from following the blimp postings that the blimp is very affected by weather and I should allow more than one possible day in case it was grounded, and I took the first available day so if we got grounded I could fly on a later day while I was still in Tampa. As it turned out, a huge cold front moved into Tampa, grounding the blimp yesterday, which was my travel day out to Tampa anyway. We had some coordinating phone calls. The Blimp is staying at Fantasy of Flight, south of Tampa; it was coming in to pick up a local Fox News reporter at noon, so I arranged to meet it at a local regional airfield. On the way to the airfield I was driving down the highway and suddenly the Blimp appeared! You could see it quite a ways off and when you got up nearer could read the banners quite clearly. It hung over the highway and everyone was slowing to look at it! Very cool! I was driving, so I didn't get a picture.

When I arrived at the airfield, Elijah was on the phone with the reporter, who was canceling. I met up with the other riders. We had two Blimp customers, a reporter for Cornell's student newspaper, and an organizer from a local Meetup group (the Blimp crew has been giving open seats to Meetup organizers, which is a great move because they do a lot of work promoting the Blimp Tour and organizing local support for it), plus Elijah and Daniel the Blimpographer. Elijah gave us Ron Paul Air Force hats and laminated necklace access passes that say Blimponaut and Ron Paul Blimp Tour Passenger, with the Ron Paul Air Force logo on them. We waited for a while while Elijah made a flurry of coordination calls and the Blimp was out making people do double-takes. After a bit our ears picked up a drone, and shortly the Blimp appeared, soaring triumphantly over the airfield:

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239714545-M-LB

It landed, which is an involved process with an efficient ground crew running out and securing lines. While we were assembling in the parking lot, a Fox News helicopter flew over us and hovered, shooting some footage.

The Blimp is enormous. It's just totally huge. Apparently it's the largest Blimp in North America, the same size as the Goodyear blimp but with a bigger gondola (which is the size of a little bus). Note little ant-like ground crew near the gondola!

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239715199-M-LB

Elijah introduced us to the crew and we boarded. The Blimp floats around some on the ground, so you have to board carefully as it tends to swing. It's very like riding a boat. The Blimp is carefully ballasted and the crew adjusts ballast sandbags in a flurry of activity when you are loaded - it burns fuel as it flies so it gets lighter, so it takes off heavy and lands light. The cabin is extremely nice. It's set up with VIP seating, which means it's very roomy and the seats (which face each other in pairs, like on a train) are really comfortable.
http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239718342-M-LB

They gave a safety briefing and then we launched - foosh! The engines swivel up, so the Blimp can take off at a crazy angle. It's nose pitches up and it goes "shoom" and suddenly all the people are little little people down below. The engines make a loud hum. From obsessively watching the internet video postings and pictures, everything seemed familiar, but the actual experience of riding is just tremendously fun. As soon as it gets airborne you can move around the cabin. It's like riding a sailboat; it pitches up and down, but if you pay a little attention it's fine. The windows open out so you can lean out and take pictures. The whole city hangs there beneath you. We flew at around 1,300 ft and spent a lot of time buzzing highways and giving office workers something to look at :)

http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239719541-M-LB

There was actually another blimp out flying, the Outback blimp, which apparently is a regular thing. It was much smaller though. You could see our Blimp's shadow on the ground - it casts a big one!

Cell phones mostly work in the Blimp. I called my boss on my BlackBerry and told him I wasn't at work today because I was out riding the Ron Paul Blimp (I have a very cool boss ;)

I got a good look at the O2 Reactor wireless unit, which is causing Elijah a lot of aggravation, and we worked on it with little success. Apparently it works great outside of Florida cities :( Actually it gets connectivity much of the time, enough to drive the GPS fine, but not enough bandwidth over Tampa to stream video. You can seee on a ping test that there's a lot of latency and some dropped packets. He has a new 4' long giant antenna coming tomorrow morning so they're going to give that a try. After the flight we learned the GPS wasn't tracking, but it was transmitting data the whole time so apparently there was an issue with either the GPS receiver not updating or the website not getting the feed, Elijah was on the phone with programmers debugging it later in the day after the flight. So while the connectivity lapses are frustrating, know that they really are digging into it. But the experience of actually flying in the Blimp is just awesome. You're just chillin', hanging their in the air, waving to the cars, swapping seats and taking photos. It's got to get seen by vast numbers of people; we pretty much did donuts around downtown Tampa.

The reporter interviewed everyone. We talked about the amazing grassroots campaign and how it was able to overcome all kinds of obstacles, and how thing were really happening out there in that part of America that is sick of being ignored.

Elijah gets lots and lots of calls, on and off the Blimp; the breadth of the things that the few Liberty Political staff deal with is amazing. They're talking to reporters, flight crew, weather people, negotiating aspects of operation with the blimp company, talking to equipment vendors and tech support and website people - it really is a very complicated logistical operation. For example, they are not allowed to transport customers point-A to point-B, it has to be point-A to point-A, a vexing aircraft legality point that came out recently and makes life more complicated for the Blimp team. The regulatory environment is quite complex :(

We were the first large customers to fly (there have been others who qualified, but we were the first to actually claim flights, although a number of very deserving organizers have gotten flights). The more stable scheduling is helping a lot, but ironically, the media is becoming more resistant: the list of media personalities who have been offered, and turned down, blimp flights recently is a bit eye opening. I had no idea how aggressive Liberty Political is about promoting; they have been very, but they are hitting resistance. And just to be clear about this, it's basically almost impossible to get a blimp flight until the Ron Paul blimp came around - see this New York Times discussion (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=950DE5DD1030F937A25756C0A96F948260)
or google "blimp rides" and see. So the opportunity to fly on the Blimp is really quite amazing. I'm glad to see some Meetup organizers getting in on it!

When we landed we took about a million photos. Then most of us went out for a late lunch, where we took the opportunity to bend Elijah's ear about some of the more useful forum feedback, which I'll post in a separate thread.

You can see the entire photostream here:
http://davidr.smugmug.com/gallery/4110732#239713163



Thank you very much for your descriptive report! Even though I'm working on the blimp project I haven't seen it or ridden on it. It's cool to get the details from a passenger/sponsor's point of view. I think we're going to start a testimonials page soon where we put information like this to help everyone get as close to experiencing the blimp as possible.

Katharine

Blimp Media Coordinator
01-05-2008, 04:31 PM
Loved reading your descriptive post and glad you had a great time!

Mckarnin
01-07-2008, 12:29 AM
Loved reading your descriptive post and glad you had a great time!

Bump!

Man from La Mancha
01-07-2008, 10:58 AM
blump

gecko42
01-07-2008, 01:04 PM
Riding the blimp is so cool, it's like being in a flying sailboat. I can't believe they let me steer it! :D