Thursday, July 09, 2009

Feeling Gassy

So I was working the Whiting sector the other day. Things were dead. I had nary a plane on the freq.

Suddenly, I got a call: "Approach, Airship 156LG."

Readers of this blog know I've got a thing for airships. I read about them. I write about them. I have a general fascination with the subject matter. I'm a fan of all things alternate history/steampunk, and airships are just a huge part of that. So, needless to say, when I heard that my reaction was a mental "Ooooh...."

I keyed up and asked him his intentions. Turns out he wanted to land at Pensacola Regional. I issued him a squawk code and a few seconds later he popped up on my scope. I told him to proceed as requested to the airport, which was 20 miles south. He was cruising at 1000 feet.

It was at that I point realized that airship pilots must be some really patient chaps. His ground speed was showing a whopping 20 knots over the ground. 20 nautical miles to fly. 20 knots of ground speed. That's right - he took nearly an hour to traverse that distance.

We have a function on our scope that lets you click on an aircraft, click on a point along the aircraft's route (in this case our airport), and it'll tell you how long the aircraft will take to get there and what his ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) is. Yeah... when I tried that with Mr. Airship, it spat back "XXX". He was going too slow for it to calculate, LOL.

The funniest moment came courtesy of a Navy trainer. She was departing Whiting NAS about six miles east of the airship's position and turning west towards him. As she was climbing up to 2500 feet, I noticed another, unrelated target, approaching the airship at 1000 feet. So, I call the airship and tell him, "Airship 6LG, traffic, 9 o'clock, three miles, southwest bound, altitude indicates 1000 feet, type unknown."

Well, the Navy trainer thought the traffic call was for her. "Approach, Red Knight 123, I have the.... uh... traffic in sight. I, uh, I... I think it's a blimp!" The tone of wondrous confusion in her voice was hilarious. I cracked up.

I responded. "RN123, Approach, that traffic call was not for you, but, yes, there is indeed an airship out there. He's no factor for you."

Anyways, after a (long) while I handed the airship off to the next sector, who actually worked the arrivals into Pensacola Regional. I got relieved by another controller and grabbed my camera (Always keep a camera handy!). I wanted to snap some pics of him landing. After all, it's not very often we see airships in these parts.

I hit the outdoor rear staircase. The airship was still 4 miles away. I swear, he looked like he was standing still in the sky. I took one pic, then went inside and packed up my laptop... made a phone call... checked my e-mail... hit the bathroom... and did a bunch of other errands. I had plenty of time. :)

Upon finishing my business, I took another peek out the window. At last, he was on his final approach. I ran outside, set my camera on video, and started filming. The entire ground crew was ready and waiting, along with a mooring mast.

Here's the resulting video of his approach and landing, about 2.5 minutes long after editing. The music is "Wings of Steam Remix" from the soundtrack to American McGee's Alice.

(Don't forget to hit the "HD" option)


deltamike172 said...

I'm surprised you could even keep a track on that guy going so slow. At some point, HOST or ARTS would just grow impatient and coast it :)

Wicked Penguin said...

Yeah, no kidding! At points he was showing 10 knots over the ground. At what point does the Moving Target Indicator decide, "You know, transponder or not, I'm going call that target a really, really tall tree."

Pete said...

Saw that blimp at the Pell City airport a few weeks ago. With the proper motivation, let's hope it can make the trip quicker than that... Love the blog!