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Airship Pilot Life Stories

The Account of Rob Parker

I started my career as a hot-air balloonist who was approached by another balloonist looking for some ground crewmen. When he asked me if I'd join his crew I said "Sure, I'm not doing anything this weekend." Well, that weekend has turned into 8 1/2 years so far, and it doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon. I knew on my first day as a ground crewman that I wanted to be an airship pilot, so I worked hard, and learned all of the ground positions, and duties associated with maintaining and operating a commercial airship, hoping that one day I would be able to take command of an airship as a pilot.

In the meantime I was also working on the prerequisite ratings required by Airship International, my employer at the time, who required their pilots to have at least commercial and instrument ratings before being trained by them as airship pilots. Once I obtained these ratings, I remained a ground crewman until a new airship was built, creating the need for a new pilot. This was the opportunity that I had been waiting for. I was trained, and became a fully certified airship pilot. I had my dream job!

A year later, Airship International encountered some financial problems which forced them to lay-off some of their pilots. I was invited to stay on as a crewman, due to my past experience, so I stayed hoping that they would once again need certified pilots. Unfortunately, Airship International never did recover from their economic hardships, but I will forever be grateful for the opportunities they gave me by training me and letting me fly their airships all over the U.S. and even to work for a brief time in Mexico.

After leaving Airship International I was unemployed for a brief time as there aren't many places for a "Blimper" to find work. It is a specialized trade with few operating companies to look toward as potential employers.

Eventually, I was approached by The Lightship Group, (Formerly Virgin Lightships) who was expanding their operations thereby requiring more pilots. I've been with The Lightship Group for almost two years now and have been having the time of my life. With them I've flown in the U.S.A., Canada, England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and even Malaysia. The Lightship Group is involved not only with advertising, but has also done scientific work for NASA, The British Ministry of Defence, and even marine research as well as onboard live television downlinks for various sporting events such as The Kentucky Derby, Baseball World Series, The Superbowl, FA Cup Football and many more. For more information regarding The Lightship Group please visit our website at

- Rob Parker

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