Rebecca At Goodyear Blimp BaseMy wife has always been good with surprises. When we were first dating, she took me on a surprise date to a minor league hockey game at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. (I don’t think I even knew KC had a hockey team at the time.)

My birthday was late in July, and Rebecca told me to keep the morning of the Saturday after free. We have a long list of restaurants to try, so I assumed this was going to be a new breakfast or brunch place. I didn’t press, and she didn’t give up what she had in store, so we set the GPS for an address and drove out.

Blimp and SkyWhen I made the turn onto Dixie Highway, I knew what she had planned. We’ve often driven by the Goodyear Blimp base, and I’ve told her it would be fun to go see it sometime. She had called the office and set us up for a tour. We arrived at around 9:00, and the ground crew arrived to take us into the hanger.

There are three Goodyear Blimp bases in the US: One in Akron, Ohio, one in Carson, California, and one here in Pompano Beach, Florida. The Pompano Beach base houses the Spirit of Innovation, the blimp that you often see while relaxing on the beach in South Florida.

Ryan and Rebecca In Front of GondolaThe blimp was moored by its nose to a tractor pulled sled. We had about half an hour to see the blimp and take pictures. The ground crew was nice enough to get one of Rebecca and I in front of the gondola. I was hoping to get a look at the camera, but it’s stored elsewhere and they only attach it when it’s needed for an event.

The other side is where the LED array is attached. I expected it to be a lot more dense than it actually was. It’s a net of 3,780 boards, each containing an outer ring of red LEDs and red, green and blue LEDs on the inside.

Apparently blimps can stay airborne for up to 24 hours, but their usual service is regional. When they need to travel long distances for an event they’ll cover about 300 miles a day on route. They’re tracked by a fleet of three ground support vehicles.

Blimp Being TowedTime was up on the tour, and the crew walked us out of the hangar to an observation area and the tractor towed the blimp to the launchpad. It took a while to get the blimp set up. You need to know somebody to actually get a ride on the blimp, but once the blimp was on the launchpad a golf cart took the passengers out and they launched.

Thanks Bex, I’m glad we got to get out to see it before we left Florida. We took more photos, and the rest can be found out here. Now we just need to find somebody who knows somebody to get us up in one next time. Tours are free and definitely recommended.