Regular readers of this blog know I am a HUGE fan of social media, especially Twitter, where I do my aviation geek posts as @AvQueenBenet. You also know that my day job is handling media relations for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) — a job I found via social media.
Our headquarters are directly across the street from Frederick Municipal Airport, where I happen to be taking my flight lessons. Last Monday as I was coming into work, I saw the MetLife blimp parked at the airport. It had flown to cover the Preakness horse race in Baltimore. I got out, snapped a few pictures and thought that was that. I kept seeing the blimp, so finally on Thursday, I thought I’d send a tweet to @MetLifeBlimp.
I was amazed when I got such a quick response.
Pilot Charlie Smith was kind enough to pick me up and off we went. First, I was amazed at how big the blimp was. I was also surprised that it’s just a big bag of air, as Charlie aptly described it. I got to talk with Charlie about how he became a blimp pilot, the traveling life of the crew of 13, and everything it takes to get the blimp from point A to point B. As far as him getting in the door, Smith said he was in the right place at the right time. “Not too many people dream of doing this, but we all fall in love with it.”
I know what he means. I actually felt an electric thrill when I got into the blimp’s cockpit. Forgive me as I go into uber avgeek mode. Amazingly enough, the cockpit looked amazingly like the one I’m using in my flight lessons on the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP. Smith agreed, noting that the blimp’s cockpit only had three instruments that were unique to the aircraft. And the blimp doesn’t have ailerons, which are hinged flight control surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing on an aircraft and are used to control the aircraft in roll. As a current student, it seems weird to me that such a key part of flight is not there!
Smith noted that the @MetLifeBlimp social media team is pretty quick about responding to tweets. He said the blimp has responded to tweets to fly over schools or other places if they can fit it in the schedule. I really appreciate the folks at MetLife for allowing me to have this grand adventure! And if the blimp shows up in your city, send them a tweet — they may just fly by!