TAMPA, Fla. -- Pilot Brian Comer hovered his airship over Raymond James Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday, and took in a spectacular vista of Tampa and its watery surroundings.
"Just a beautiful smooth ride," Comer said as the Goodyear blimp known as the Spirit of Innovation remained suspended in the afternoon air.
The blimp will be taking aerial shots for NBC's "Today Show" and its pregame shows for the Super Bowl, but there won't be any overhead shots the night of the big game. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the Super Bowl as a level-one event, so there won't be any air traffic allowed within a 10-mile radius of the stadium, beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"The airspace is pretty well locked down for the Super Bowl," Comer said.
Nevertheless, Goodyear has been escorting visitors for rides on the Florida breezes in one of its three blimps.
The airship weighs seven tons but is made buoyant by helium. Two 210-horsepower engines propel the 200-foot long ship through the air, burning 20 gallons of aviation fuel each hour.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has been using its aerial ambassadors for 84 years and built the blimp that flew over the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Nowadays, the three-ship fleet is used for overhead shots of NASCAR races and college football games, among other events.
Comer was in the air when the Steelers' charter jet landed Monday. Air-traffic control gave the go-ahead for landing and then a voice said "Go Steelers," Comer said.
Robert Dvorchak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .