Page 2 hitches a ride on the Goodyear blimp

Tue, Dec 7

ATLANTA -- Fast, lean and young athletes may rule the field.

But the Goodyear blimp dominates the sky by being slow, lazy, fat and old.

That's what makes riding in it so fun.

The Spirit of Innovation touched down in a big field near Atlanta Motor Speedway this week, its home while covering Saturday's SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome.

Sweat dripped only as the blimp docked. A crew of 16 in black uniforms ran out like a grounds crew in the sixth inning, grabbing cables dangling from the blimp, steadying the 13,000 pounds of helium as it hovered just above the ground.

Goodyear blimp
Michelle Hiskey The ground crew heads out to wrestle the 13,000-pound Goodyear blimp.

Time to get on.

Hurry through the big shadow, two-thirds of a football field long. Climb the moving ladder on the side of the cabin. It's like boarding a boat.

Sit next to senior pilot Brian Comer. Don't bother buckling. There's not enough G-force to need a seat belt. Slide down the windows, just like on a school bus.

Comer looks like he's in a wheelchair. He uses two hands to turn the thick wooden wheel between the seats -- the "elevator" -- and the nose of the blimp is going up, up, up, UP!

The crew has let the cables go, the propellers are spinning, the engine roars and the ground pulls away slooooooowwwwwwwwwly.

Surely the kid in "E.T." flew his bicycle faster than this.

Comer looks like he's pedaling, too. His feet steer the blimp, adjusting to the constant, gentle currents.

Very retro -- check. Few rules -- check. Like riding golf cart 1,000 feet in the air -- check.

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