Tail rotor Main engines x2
Tail fin x4
“The airships bring
added excitement to
every Penguins home
game, especially for our
young fans who gravitate
toward the airships as
they navigate the skies of
CONSOL Energy Center.”
Vice President of Marketing
This illustration shows a basic airship layout.
channel 72 MHz Futaba radio from 1990.
I use the Aurora 9 on a giant flying pig for a local grocery
store’s events. The flying pig is different than a normal airship.
It has five motors, all capable of forward or reverse, two on
the gondola, one in the tail, and one in each ear serving as an
adjustable canard for attitude control. Depending on the setting,
all the motors on the right can go in forward, while all the
motors on the left go in reverse, and the tail goes right and left
so that the whole
thing can spin on a
dime or do stunts.
lighting and a prize-drop mechanism.
The Aurora 9 is
set up similar to
helicopter and the
rear sliders adjust
motor angle. The
flying pig also flies
indoors and outside.
To quote a wise spider, “That’s some
How much fun is flying over a
crowd of 18,000 screaming fans?
How about airdrops? People go crazy
for prizes dropped from an airship
high overhead. The drop mechanisms
come in different sizes and shapes,
capable of firing pingpong balls,
dropping hats, or dropping prize
envelopes. There is a mechanism for
anything you can lift with the aircraft.
What we usually use is a simple
drop mechanism that works at the
slow speeds at which we fly, dropping
one or two dozen envelopes, one at a
time. Using a sailing winch servo that
will spin continuously left or right on
command, or cutting and modifying a
servo, we attach a large loop spring cutoff at one end. Then we
punch a hole in the envelope and load the envelopes onto the
spring, one envelope per rung until every rung is filled, 12 to 24
On most airships, we set this to the left horizontal stick on
the transmitter. Left reels the envelopes off one at a time, right
reels them back on. If you want to be creative, you can fold the
envelopes so they flutter all over the place and excite the fans.
One of the most common questions I am asked is “where
do you sit in the airship to pilot it?” After explaining the
complicated process of miniaturization on a biological subject,
I usually slip away as quickly as possible in search of some great
stadium nachos. We don’t sit in them!
We typically fly from the players’ bench. Because it is in the
center by the floor, it’s easy to get to, and we can see the entire
arena and the airship. Perspective can be deceiving, and it is
difficult to tell exactly where the airship is in relation to the
stands that are at a steep angle, the wall, cables, wires, cameras,
and the balconies. Add to that the fact that you are flying a
20-foot-long, 8-foot-high airship with all the air conditioners or
heaters on full blast, doors opening and closing, thermoclines
from the ice, as well
as body heat from
and flying can be
a challenge. That’s
why training is
Our pilots spend
more than 40 hours
before their first in-game flight, starting
with basic position/
From there, pilots learn to fly a
square box pattern, keeping an equal
distance from the Jumbotron and
maintaining constant altitude. We
include periodic “clock” maneuvers,
rotating the airship on its gondola and
stopping at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.
Flying the pattern is the actual game
flight path. Over the ice, a mistake is
relatively harmless, but over the seats,
even empty during practice, blimp
parts can get caught or broken on
railings, armrests, or balconies.
When pilots have mastered the flight patterns, we add the
prize drops. Pilots spend hours dropping fake prize envelopes
so that they land in the seats and not out on the ice. Pilots in
training attend nearly every game and stand with the regular
pilots during flights, while the pilot talks through what he or she
When it’s time for the first in-game flight, the excitement is
overwhelming. The novice pilots join the pilot in the players’
box, while the ground crew moves the airship through the
Zamboni entrance tunnel and onto the ice.
With the clock already ticking, a last flight control test is
quickly performed, and if given the thumbs-up from the ground
crew, the airship is launched and immediately rises with no
Because the airship was in the tunnel where it is warm, and
43 Model Aviation MARCH 2014