Up, up & away over the Quad Cities

One of the Quad Cities biggest annual attractions is floating over the Quad Cities as MetLife’s “Snoopy II” blimp returns to town to help provide aerial coverage of the 2013 John Deere Classic.

Able to travel at top speeds of around 35 mph and powered by two 75 horsepower engines, the helium-filled blimp travels from sporting event to sporting event all summer, triggering smiles below everywhere they go.

“It’s a rewarding part of our job, to see ‘em have a good time,” Chief Pilot Bret Viets told News 8 Wednesday.

Unlike in a small plane, where a pilot can perform all the operations to take off, fly and land, this blimp takes an entire crew to safely help it take off and bring it back to Earth.

“I can land, but I can’t stop until my crew’s set-up,” Viets said. “[It takes] roughly 45 minutes once they hit the ground here at the airport.”

While the crew, which travels ahead of the blimp in vans and trailers, comes to town to work the event, they also do so much more for each community they pass through.

“We also do a lot of work with “Believe in Tomorrow,” an organization that plans activities for kids that are or have been critically injured,” Viets said.

When it’s time to cover the tournament, only the pilot and one photographer take off for the four-to-five hour flight over the TPC at Deere Run, taking off and docking back at the Davenport Municipal Airport, all before taking off Sunday for their next destination.