Saturday, May 07, 2011
After my sleep study Friday night, I headed over to the local airport to photograph the forth airship to grace Orlando so far, the Farmer's Insurance Group airship. I'd spotted her heading into the airport over the 408 while I was driving home Friday afternoon. I'd have pulled off to watch her land, but I needed to head home and couldn't tarry. My loss.
According to the lone tech at the site, this airship is the largest in the world. Since I'm no expert in these matters, I'll take his word for it. I will admit it's certainly the largest I've ever seen.
The tech said the airship was in Orlando for the next six days. Airship Ventures, the owners and operators of the airship, had the area around the airship set up to sell flights on her. I don't know how much it costs for a single flight, but based on what I've seen on the website, prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, which is a bit rich for my pocketbook.
The Farmer's dirigible has the most sophisticated powerplants I've seen so far on blimps and airships. It not only has one on each side but a third pusher prop in the back with a fourth side-facing prop to help with maneuverability, like a helicopter's tail rotor. Even the gondola is the most sophisticated I've seen. The shape reminds me a bit of a helicopter fuselage.
The airship certainly makes use of the rear wheel. All other airships that have used this field usually have the stern floating above the bow. The Farmer's stern was definitely down, and as you can see above, the airship is pretty heavy. The ground on the airfield is dry and packed, yet the tail wheel was able to leave a long tell-tale divot in the turf. And even though the wind wasn't strong enough to stir the wind sock, the airship presented enough of surface that it was slowly moving about its mooring mast. This is a very big ship, and she certainly needs to be respected as she moves about.
To underscore how large and sophisticated this particular airship is, the horizontal tail is the most sophisticated I've seen on any of the airships to date.It looks like a structure you'd see on a regular aviation aircraft.
The gondola is sophisticated and neatly faired into the bottom of the gasbag. It underscores another feature of this particular airship; it has no rigging. It has some external control lines, but nothing like the other three blimps that have visited Orlando. I would love to see the engineering drawings of this ship and see how the internal structure was designed.
I was surprised to look up and see the little dual control sticks. They remind me more of a video game than an aircraft. It's also apparent that this machine has both pilot and co-pilot, or at least it's built to have both.
Taken with an Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 12-60mm and an E-3 with Zuiko Digital 50-200mm.