To mark the start of the college football season, here is a piece from ESPN’s Outside the Lines on the life of a blimp pilot. They ran the story in January this year to mark the 50th anniversary of blimps being used to cover sporting events. Turns out the position is very tough to get, and there’s a lot more to think about than you might imagine:
It’s a juggling game during sporting events, steering the blimp toward the action, timing the left turns, trying to stay out of the way. The U.S. Open tennis tournament is one of the hardest events to cover, [Pilot Marty] Chandler says. There are airplanes whizzing around from JFK. There are tennis players who get perturbed over the roar of the blimp’s engines from 1,000 feet above. There are shadows to worry about and international satellite signals to dodge.
“So you work like crazy,” Chandler says. “Because the last thing we want to do is disturb the event we’re trying to cover.”
There’s also video embedded at the link that talks about the genesis of the blimp shot, and its significance for college football in particular. Frank Chirkinian is the former CBS producer who pioneered the technique. His take: “You don’t need a single word, not a single word uttered, with a picture like that from above. It says it all.”