One of the world’s largest blimps, the Spirit of George, rests on the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport airfield just west of Ocala.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) plan to take the giant blimp as part of a project called Cloud Lab across the U.S. to San Francisco, while stopping at 10 to 15 locations. Now, weather has stalled the project by at least one day.
This multimedia package for WUFT News was harder than it looks. It was another late night for me at George A. Smathers library on University of Florida campus. I was done with grading articles for my labs, and I was looking for story pitches for the upcoming day.
Around 2:30 a.m. I found a preview article about this unique blimp in Ocala that the Orlando Sentinel published about six hours before. I thought to myself that this could be a good event to cover. Unfortunately, the Orlando Sentinel article did not provide a location or time for takeoff. After finishing work at the library, I went back home and prepared for an early start.
I arrived at the newsroom around 6 a.m. I had given up sleep in order to clean up and have a proper breakfast. The pitch was given a green light, and I started calling airports. It was too early, I could not check out equipment, and all I had was my Canon Rebel T4i and an audio recorder.
I had to actually hunt down the blimp in hopes of catching it before it left Ocala for its cross-country voyage in the name of science and discovery.
I got in my car and drove over an hour through torrential rains on a highway with barely visible markings at night. My first guess was Ocala International Airport.
When I arrived circa 7 a.m., I got in touch with airport operations, and found out that the blimp was not there. However, rumor had it the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport is a popular spot for large blimps to land at.
I was able to reach the airport while driving there. The blimp was there. YES!
I proceeded to gather interviews and shoot video on a SD card with no tri-pod. What a nightmare. Nevertheless, after a full day of standing in the airfield waiting for people to arrive and finally shooting the blimp flying, I managed to put together a web article, video package with a standup, and a photo slideshow. I also live tweeted during the afternoon.
Perseverance helped me complete the job. Sometimes, we do not have everything we need for the job. That should never stop us from thinking on the go though. While waiting and driving, I was able to coordinate interviews and let video render on my laptop.