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You are watching: How much does a blimp pilot make


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They room rarer than astronauts and, if we’re talking about a woman, even rarer still. Blimp pilots might be attendees in among the oldest areas of aviation, however the requirements of the position and also the small variety of operating airships in the world method that meeting someone prefer Kristen Arambula, assistant pilot in fee at Goodyear’s Carson, California blimp base, is choose winning the lottery.

Arambula, whose career through airships spans 2,400 flight hours and eleven years, over nine of them v Goodyear, is regularly at the controls that N4A “Spirit the Innovation”, the final model GZ-20A blimp paris in the world. Following year it will certainly deflate because that the last time, come be changed by Goodyear’s newest fleet, semi-rigid “NT” Neue Technologie airships constructed in partnership v Zeppelin. *Wingfoot One* entered the skies two years ago, *Wingfoot Two* was freshly christened, and also the parts for *Wingfoot Three* are already trickling in native Germany come Goodyear’s Akron-area hangar. *Wingfoot Two* (N2A), who godmother is entrepreneur and also philanthropist Savannah James, mam of LeBron James, is destined for Californian skies and Arambula’s pilotage. For now she’s preparing to include mother to her resume, and also she’ll begin training on the NT in early on 2017.

We sat down through Kristen in ~ Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Balloonport – yes, it is the term because that an airport the sees just airship task – and shook the stars from our eyes to chat around her job flying big, bulbous airships in what is among the tiniest corners of aviation.

You have experience as a woman being a pilot, and also a pilot that a blimp nonetheless. What made you want to go into aviation and what to be your course to this role?

KA: together of right now there are only three active female blimp pilots in the world. Goodyear has two of them—Taylor Laverty and also myself. That a pretty small group as there’s most likely only 40-50 active blimp pilots period. I obtained started in aviation due to the fact that it seemed like a really glamorous job, exciting and also different. I started it together a hobby. Ns was studying company in school and also I took a pair of trip lessons on the side, and my thought was, “why not get paid to execute something that’s funny all the time?” ns went down the course of aviation, ending up being a Certified trip Instructor (CFI) and also an Instrument trip Instructor (CFI-I), and also I fell into blimps due to the fact that I was trip instructing in ~ an airport that occurred to it is in the blimp airport in Chicago, and also so I saw blimps landing there. I assumed that it looked fun and also I sought it by phone call the company. I was able to get an interview and I was hired, and I did the for around a year and also a half. It was life on the roadway constantly, living the end of 2 suitcases anywhere the united States. I was practically right out of college and I had a the majority of fun, yet when a spot opened up up at Goodyear it seemed to me the perfect job. The human whose location I ultimately took had retired after 35 years v the company. I gain to spend most nights in ~ home and be with my family, and also I get to work-related with a an excellent team. It’s a lot much more team-oriented than common aviation. That’s part of the reason why I’ve continued to be with blimps. You acquire to work-related with therefore many human being and, as soon as you travel, unlike airline pilots you get to hang out with a constant group. You’re no a stranger in any type of city.

I can’t say my experience has been that various as a girl. I’ve been an extremely fortunate. I have heard stories but I haven’t knowledgeable anything negative in my trip training or in ~ Goodyear. I reap the travel aspect. That exciting. Our various other female pilot, Taylor, who’s additionally in California, to be an Alaskan shrub pilot before she began flying blimps. The two room very comparable because blimps are really weather-sensitive and you yes, really don’t always know what you’re going come encounter.

What has actually been the best obstacle for you, throughout your career, in getting to this point?

KA: Shifting mine mind native thinking about this together a totally glamorous way of life job and also coming come grips v the truth of every little thing that requirements to be known, like how an engine runs and also knowing various system components. Mine initial progress was a tiny slower due to the fact that of this, till I obtained a an excellent grasp that mechanics.


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Inside a blimp cockpit. Image: Steven Drescher


Do you have any kind of aviation heroes?

KA: For me the the WASP and Jackie Cochran during people War II. They to be female pilots that did every sorts the crazy things while the men were off fighting. They would certainly tow banner as targets that world on the ground would certainly test-shoot at, and a number of the ladies died. They didn’t obtain much credit until the last fifteen or twenty years. I’m grateful that women prefer that went before me and also took under the significant obstacles that would have actually prevented me from reaching where i am today.

Can girlfriend share a bit of your day-to-day life together a blimp pilot?

KA: All of united state do different things all the time. We do passenger operations, lots of television events, interviews with different newscasts or truth shows, and also so it’s combined up a lot. That neat and also kind of outside of normal aviation. Ns don’t think any of us, when we decided to it is in a pilot, thought, “oh, i’m going to fly a blimp one day”. There’s therefore much selection to the job. We acquire the great part that aviation v it, yet there’s also interesting PR points to do and also we gain to occupational with Make-A-Wish and also other charities. We travel a lot – our California crew recently went to Vancouver. It’s an ordeal when we travel, through a crew of 20 people and seven floor vehicles. You need to stop quite a bit, because an airship have the right to only travel so far in one day, and we have to plan ahead of time, choose making travel accommodations for 20 hotel rooms at every stop. It’s fun because you’re traveling with friends. The group becomes a family and it is a tiny bit of a lifestyle as protest to a 9-to-5 job.

What kind of reactions perform you get from civilization when friend tell castle you’re a blimp pilot?

KA: Well, if I’m outside of work I commonly don’t volunteer that I’m a blimp pilot, only since they desire a ride and also you don’t want to need to disappoint people. If I execute tell someone ns a blimp pilot, climate they either don’t think it due to the fact that there are usually so few, or they get really excited and start questioning all sorts of questions. The is fun to talk about. Luckily ns doing something ns love and I don’t mind discussing the blimps as soon as I’m out and also about.

Do you watch yourself paris blimps for the rest of her life?

KA: Until retirement! We’ll do it as long as they allow us. That a good work-life balance. You’re no constantly changing time zones and also you’re working v a huge team. Yes no auto-pilot in . Ours friends – like 98 percent that the people we go to course with – room in the airline or this firm flying and also they don’t have actually the background that us have. The whole christening process is yes, really unique and the mean pilot doesn’t gain to go through something this meaningful. We’re complying with in the footsteps the aviators for virtually one hundred years of blimp paris at Goodyear. Yes, systems and also a the majority of other things have actually changed, yet the main point of the heritage is the same.


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Retirement is the only means Kristen Arambula is leave the life that a blimp pilot. Image: Steven Drescher


What advice would you offer to someone that is thinking around career paths and also sees you and what you doing, and wonders if it’s also possible for them?

KA: It’s challenging only due to the fact that there room so couple of spots in the people for blimp pilots. I did struggle a tiny bit, gift a woman, since I didn’t understand as countless technical things. I obtained some extra aid – constantly asking mine teachers when I needed it. Don’t pretend to know, if you actually don’t know what someone is talking about. I went to college of Illinois and did the trip program there. For girls, ask for knowledge. Ask because that someone to teach you exactly how to adjust a car tire, examine the oil, just begin with basic stuff. That technique will assist you as you progress in one aviation career. Keep pursuing it; if girlfriend run into a roadblock then ask again for help because human being in aviation room usually pretty passionate around it and also you’ll discover someone to help. AOPA is a great organization with assistance for student pilots. If you’re a women, the Ninety-Nines and Women In Aviation International. The EAA. These space all establishments that love to aid future pilots.

What experience have actually you had actually that renders you think, “this is why ns up here?”

KA: My favourite thing about flying blimps is the passengers, once they’re really excited. Those usually loss into a pair categories: the young kids or those that are relatively old. The kids can room so excited to it is in on the blimp or close to the blimp the you have the right to tell lock can’t save themselves still. Climate the older human being have want to paris in the blimp their totality life. When they really evaluate something you carry out then that provides it for me. Ns love it.

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There are plenty of things, ~ above a monthly basis, where I’m like, “wow this is a good job. I’m yes, really glad i’m doing this.” choose I said, mine favorite point is the passengers. We execute make a difference in part lives, like when we paris Make-A-Wish and also Toys for Tots, and also you get a feeling of your influence on people. I also enjoy our endure of the topography. Seeing mountains, the coast! paris at our base in Florida you deserve to see so lot sea life looking straight down into the water. We’ve watched so much. The cliffs together we fly with Oregon top top our method to Canada! You deserve to see the redwoods! I deserve to name choose twenty different things that have actually made huge impressions top top me in mine nine-and-a-half year career through Goodyear.