CINCINNATI - Shift change doesn't take long for blimp pilots.
About two seconds.
You don't want to leave the cockpit of a 192-foot airship unattended even when it's on the ground.
It takes over a dozen ground crew members wrestling the 192 foot airship with ropes and the railing at the base of the seven person gondola, keeping it stable during the transfer.
Then, a thumbs up from the crew chief, and the Spirit of Goodyear ramps up to the sky.
One of the pilots is a 30-year-old with the appropriate name of James Kosmos, and has wanted to fly since he was a kid.
"It's the best gig I ever had," the former commercial jet pilot said from behind the controls.
He'll be one of three pilots flying the blimp during the playoffs.
And while Kosmos calls it the best seat in the house, it's far from up close and personal.
"(I) can't necessarily tell you what players doing what," he said, "but I can definitely tell you what team's doing what."
Flying a blimp during a game has it's challenges; staying close enough for the TV cameras to get their shots, but making sure he doesn't pass between the stadium and the sun.
"We don't want anybody missing a catch or something in the outfield because the blimp shadow got in their way," Kosmos said.
Despite its size, many of the blimp's controls are manual; a large wheel at the pilot's hip adjusts the pitch up and down, and cords open valves in the skin to regulate the displacement of helium inside the cigar shaped envelope.
Don't get Kosmos started on the rudder peddles.
"It keeps me in shape," he said. "It's like flying a Stairmaster, so I got to drop my gym membership."
This club is a lot more exclusive.
There are only 14 Goodyear blimp pilots in the world.
"I never thought I would be able to do this," he said. "I'm very happy with the opportunity, actually."
The opportunities for Kosmos aren't stopping there. He says he has had a hand in designing the cockpit for a new line of airships Goodyear plans to launch by the end of next year.
The new craft, a cooperative project with Zeppelin of Germany will be bigger, faster and more maneuverable than anything Goodyear has in their current fleet.
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