NewsChannel 5 goes for a ride on the DIRECTV blimp

Blimp in Florida for football bowl games
Posted at 5:54 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 18:44:12-05

If you look up in the sky this week, you may catch the DIRECTV blimp over South Florida. It’s touring the state to provide aerial footage of several football games.

WPTV got the rare opportunity step on board for a ride.

From the cockpit, it may look like a plane taking off. But leaving the earth in a blimp feels totally different. It’s like you're drifting up, floating into the air.

“Nice, low and slow,” pilot Terry Dillard gave his motto.

He’s flown blimps for the past 27 years.

“It’s not a bad office today,” he said over the Atlantic coast.

Helium keeps the aircraft floating. Three engines help keep it on track. During our flight, the blimp topped out at 35 miles per hour.

“I’m a rush guy on the ground,” said Dillard. “When I get in the air, it calms me down.”

Floating across South Florida did have a soothing, carefree feeling.

But Dillard has his eyes on everything. A blimp doesn't handle bad weather like an airplane.

“It’s better being down there wishing you were up here, than up here wishing you were down there,” he said.

There are fewer than one dozen active blimps in the United States. Dillard knows how rare his job is and it's easy to see he cherishes every moment behind the controls.

“On a scale of one to 10, today is an 11,” he beamed.

It takes the blimp up to three weeks to cross the country. Dillard sees it all, providing aerial views of sporting events.

“If a blimp comes to your town, that means something big is getting ready to happen,” he said.

Dillard wants to be there for all the big moments.

His next stop is Jacksonville for a Jaguars game this weekend.