ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a rarity throughout the world and you’ve probably only seen one hovering over large sporting events with a company logo.
We’re talking about blimps.
According to Reader’s Digest, there’s only about 25 of them in existence in the U.S., with only half of them being used.
One of them is making headlines, acting as a floating restaurant of sorts.
It was all part of the “Subway in the Sky” campaign, highlighting its new Deli Hero subs and new freshly sliced meats. The “balloon” of the blimp transformed to look like The Beast Deli Hero sub, with the gondola serving as a floating restaurant.
Fans were able to register online for a spot on the blimp and an opportunity to try some of Subway’s new Deli Hero selections.
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Driving along I-4 in Central Florida, you may have spotted the floating footlong.
News 6 anchor and Insider Guide Crystal Moyer got in on the excursion, sitting in the cockpit of the blimp with pilot Terry Dillard.
“There’s only one rule to flying blimps -- stay away from anything sharp. You don’t want to hear the ‘pshhhh,’” Terry said.
Terry’s a jokester, but he is an expert when it comes to blimps. He’s been flying unusual aircrafts for more than 40 years with thousands of flight hours clocked.
So what makes the blimp fly -- or float?
“Helium. That’s our lifting gas. To get from point A to point B, we have airplane motors, two of them, and engines along a fuel tank,” Terry said.
There’s propellers on each side of the blimp.
The front of the cockpit is covered in gauges. The controls are unique, too. There are pedals that look like accelerator and brake pedals in a car, along with a large wheel on the side of the pilot’s seat.
“I use the pedals with my feet to control my left and right, and the wheel to go up and down,” Terry said.
Terry said when it comes to blimps, most are used for advertising purposes, so he goes where the people are.
“When I head into town, I typically turn on the local news to find out what events are going on that day and where. That’s usually what I put on the list of locations for my clients,” Terry said.
When the sun goes down, Terry said the blimp’s got to be lit so people can see it.
“We have a 1,000-watt bulb inside the top of the airship, and it illuminates the airship like a spaceship,” Terry said.
Getting the balloon wrapped to look like a large sub sandwich took about a month, according to the blimp supplier Skyship Services Inc.’s President Julian Benscher. Like a puzzle, the large image was printed on hundreds of pounds of vinyl and placed on the blimp piece by piece.
Throughout the month of September, the flying footlong traveled to Kansas City, Orlando and Miami, offering unique trips to fans who applied online and won a spot. Organizers wanted customers to taste the new Deli Heroes sandwiches from with a unique view and to be seen by the hundreds of thousands traveling the roads below daily.
“That’s such a bonus for us. We wanted to get our fans involved with Subway and try the new sandwiches from the best vantage point. Everyone’s also spotting and following the blimp from below. It’s awesome,” a Subway spokesperson said.
The views are breathtaking.
After the 45-minute tour above Orlando, it was time to land.
“We’re going to work our way down and you’ll see the crew on the ground standing in an upside down ‘v’ formation. We also use hand signals to communicate,” Terry said.
When the blimp gets close enough to the ground, about a dozen crew members make a dash to grab on to the rope attached to the blimp to stabilize it
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