THEY SAY your life is not complete until you run with the bulls, dive the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks and climb El Capitan without a rope. But there is one death-defying feat that makes those look like Boy Scout--badge stuff.
Flying the Goodyear blimp.
You scoff, but I'd heard that until you've been at the helm of the blimp, sitting under the world's largest unlit bomb, you're just doodling through life. That's why I leaped at the chance to try it.
I arrived at a small airport in Frederick, Md., and there she was, the most famous blimp of them all—apart from Rosie O'Donnell—the Spirit of Goodyear, two thirds of a football field long, six stories high, enough helium to fill 400,000 balloons. The Pimp Blimp.
The crew's assignment was to take "beauty shots" for ESPN's broadcast of a Baltimore Ravens-- Indianapolis Colts game. I prepared for my safety briefing.
Well, turns out there's no safety briefing on a blimp. There aren't even seat belts. You can hang your elbow out the window as you fly, like you're in a '63 T-Bird. But don't be fooled—flying a blimp is an act of total insanity.
"Actually, blimps are just about the safest mode of transportation in the world," pilot Greg Poppenhouse said.
Right, tell that to the Hindenburg.
"Actually, the reason the Hindenburg burned was that it was coated with a flammable acetate," he said. "This one is coated in fireproof polyester."
Oh, O.K., but what if we're hit by fire from the MetLife Snoopy blimp? We'll go screeching off like an untied balloon! Where do you keep the parachutes?