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TIA blog series: Expand Aviation Club brings a blimp to Colgate by Colin Shipley ’15

By Contributing Writer on November 22, 2013

I opened a Campus Distributions email freshman year advertising a seemingly “too-good-to-be-true” 30-minute flight with a certified flight instructor, no prior flying experience necessary. I filled out the application, was accepted the following week, and soon found myself sitting at the controls of a Cessna 172 at 4,000 feet. After successfully controlling the plane back to the tarmac and having learned a great deal about airplane design and aviation technology, I knew an activity as educational and thrilling as these flights had to be continued at Colgate.

Students observe the Colgate blimp on a test flight in Sanford Field HouseFast forward to second semester sophomore year, when I assumed the presidency of Aviation Club from Joshua Lasker ’14 (also in TIA this year) who initiated the 30-minute Discovery Flights program. Having participated in Thought Into Action the previous semester and knowing the value of the mentors’ advice, I decided to introduce a project, Expand Aviation Club, into the realm of student endeavors. With the input of various mentors and student entrepreneurs in the program, I developed a strategy to market the club to the student body and interested alumni. Successful projects thus far include Soaring Discovery Flights with the Iroquois Soaring Association and the purchase of radio controlled airplanes and helicopters.

Though we have succeeded with a number of projects, none has been quite as unique and rewarding as our purchase of a radio-controlled blimp. After convincing the proper Colgate authorities, we signed off on the order of a 13 foot unmanned dirigible equipped with a GoPro Hero 3 camera that can Livestream in-flight video. Replete with Colgate decals, internal LED lights that enable night flight, and a drop feature that releases t-shirts or coupons into the crowd below, the blimp has a myriad of applications, ranging from filming athletic events to flying over Reunion and Spring Party Weekends. Training is available for students wishing to fly the blimp, and we hope to have a job listing for “blimp operator” open up sometime next year.

During the blimp endeavor and other projects, Thought Into Action has been instrumental in developing solutions to the challenges I have faced. Having access to alumni with decades of experience leads to innovative ideas and usually results in a simple solution I never would have considered. Furthermore, I find a lot of value in the effort that TIA puts into teaching students how to think and act as entrepreneurs. The skills I have developed throughout my three semesters in TIA helped me succeed not only in implementing Aviation Club projects, but will also apply post-graduation, whether as an employee or at the head of an aspiring start-up.

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