Blimps Compete Above New York

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In a rare event last staged 25 years ago, three blimps competed in a race above New York's Hudson River, launching on July Fourth. The race took place about 5 p.m., with fair blue skies and balmy weather, covering about three miles from start to finish. The three ships rendezvoused at about 1,000 feet above the Statue of Liberty, then raced up the river to the finish line at 59th Street, near the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The blimp sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which has a top speed of about 36 mph, came in first, followed by Hangar 1 Vodka and DirecTV. Three blimps in one place may not seem like a large field, but since there are only two or three dozen airships in the world, they represented a significant gathering.

Terry Dillard, pilot of the winning blimp, told AVweb it was "perfect weather for blimping" on Monday. He said the trick to winning is to maintain a level altitude and fly straight. There was no handicapping, and "bigger is not always an advantage," he said. The event is "a little like taking elephants to a horse race," he said, but plenty of spectators turned out and enjoyed it, and he expects the race will now become an annual event. All three ships were built by the American Blimp Corp. The Blue Cross blimp, an A-60 model, is 132 feet long. It carries a pilot and four passengers, and is based in Newark, N.J. The Hangar 1 blimp, also an A-60, flies from Alameda, Calif. The DirecTV airship, based at El Segundo, Calif., is a larger A-170 model, 178 feet long, which can carry eight passengers plus a pilot.