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Jon Halsey, Knifley, KY, recalls once-in-lifetime Blimp ride

In his boyhood days three hours west of Ft. Wayne, his dad, chief meteorologist at Baer Field, facilitated a ride in a Goodyear Blimp. The experience would never be forgotten. But would he go up again? The answer is in within the fascinating story, below.
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By Jon Halsey

Because the area outside of Ft. Wayne, IN where I grew up was about three hours due West of Akron, Ohio (at least as due as a distracted Crow would fly), Goodyear Blimps were a frequent distraction.

"Back in the Day" - it must have been circa 1952, give or take a year - I hitched a ride on one of the Goodyear Blimps.

My dad was Chief Meteorologist at Baer Field, which is now Ft. Wayne International, airport.

He knew one of the Blimps would be spending the night at the field so he took me to work with him that day. As I recall, it was about mid-day when the airship slowly descended to the tarmac.

Within the hour, the pilot came up to the weather station to review the weather forecasts and as it turned out, he and my father had served together in Africa during WWII. They were both in the Army Air Corp.

The pilot mentioned that the following day he would be taking some "dignitaries" on a short flight around Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan and offered to take Dad and myself along.

I think it was probably seeing my eyes as big as dinner plates and watching me squirm and shimmy around like I was about to wet my pants, that prompted dad to change work schedules with another meteorologist so we could go.

The ride wasn't as quiet as a glider or a balloon, but definitely quieter than a prop plane or helicopter. Having already ridden in all four of those, my biggest surprise was the steering mechanism. I expected to see the standard pilots yoke and joystick. Instead, the Blimp had a wheel parallel to the pilot's right side that resembled the wheel on an old sailing ship.

Due to the Blimps susceptibility to wind variations, the pilot was kept quite busy with the wheel and all of the knobs and buttons. As I remember, he was also in constant communication with the tower personnel. Still, he had time to talk with us and point out some landmarks.

Sitting in the gondola was not unlike the cabin of a small private plane.

Certainly a "once in a lifetime" experience, but would I go again? In a heartbeat!

- Jon Halsey, Knifley, KY

This story was posted on 2017-09-09 07:19:55
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