The company has been covering sporting events from the air since the 1950's. For the past few years, Goodyear has been piloting a fleet of three new 246-foot long blimps. One, located in Akron, Ohio, covers Midwest sporting events while the Pompano Beach, Florida airship covers the southern region. On Friday, our blimp, the Wingfoot Two, is stationed at Livermore Airport and covers all western states, including Canada.
PHOTOS: Soaring over the Bay Area in the Goodyear Blimp
Full disclosure: Rachel and I were a bit terrified. In our heads, visions of blimps bursting into fireballs over Europe. Innocent civilians screaming and running for cover on the ground below. It also didn't help Rachel watched an entire YouTube video on airship disasters the night before. But we were assured not only did airships have one of the safest track records in aviation, but since the vessel is filled with 300 cubic feet of helium, (not hydrogen) there was no risk of it combusting.
There's enough helium in this thing to fill anywhere between half a million to two million party balloons! Since the rides are only offered to corporate customers, charity auction winners and select members of the media, we set our anxiety aside and hopped on board.
Once we took off, all of our fears disappeared when we gazed out the giant panoramic windows of the scenery below. The ship can carry 12 passengers and two pilots, who had a special 100-mile trip around the Bay Area for us. We found the ride surprisingly quiet, something co-pilot Taylor Deen says is a sentiment shared by many.
"I think a lot of people are nervous when they get on because they've never been on an airship before. But once they're up here, they wonder how peaceful and very quiet the whole ride is. It's very scenic and relaxing. You can get up and walk around and take picture and enjoy yourself. It's a lot of fun."
Rachel and I must have filled up half our phones' memory taking breathtaking images and video of famous landmarks, like Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Salesforce Tower and Pier 39. We simultaneously yelped like school kids on a field trip: "LOOK! WHALES!" while passing over a pod, coming up for air as we approached the Bay Bridge.
Yep. This was far better than any sightseeing excursion offered to tourists.
During our "oohs" and "ahhs," Goodyear's Airship Engineer Luis Navarro was glued to a bank of monitors, capturing images and video in high-definition. He's the one who shot the images many of you saw from Thursday night's Game 1 over Oracle Arena.
"I'm proud of it...it's a good job it never gets old. I've done the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals, you name it, we've done it!"
Before we know it, our three-hour tour comes to a close. As we descend back at Livermore Airport, Rachel and I look at each other and say today was an experience we'll cherish for a lifetime.