By Alex Cassara | LSU Student
Whether you ventured to LSU's Tiger Stadium last Saturday or watched the Tigers' top-10 matchup with South Carolina on a home TV, it's almost certain you saw Michael Krause at work.
And he likes it that way.
Holding a job that marries two of his passions, Krause pilots one of the multiple MetLife sponsored blimps emblazoned with the beloved Peanuts character Snoopy that fly over college football's marquee matchups of the week.
The blimp functions as a floating advertisement for the insurance company and a carrier for the network and cable television cameras for aerial shots of live sporting events.
"Especially football games, I love covering them on television," Krause said. "It's a blast."
Krause circles the aircraft "Snoopy One," around various East Coast events throughout the year, making sure the camera operator is getting the best shot possible. That's difficult during summer golf tournaments, which the blimps spend the most time covering, due to the angles of sunlight.
"You usually don't want to drag your shadow over the course because the golfers complain about that sometimes. Believe it or not, it's much more challenging to fly a golf event."
The blimps fly over football games in the fall, transitioning prior to this season from the NFL to the college variety, which Krause calls "my sport." Attending college at Oklahoma State University in the mid-2000s, he was reunited Saturday with the man that turned his Cowboys' program around.
"We gave LSU the Hat," Krause said of the Les Miles, the eccentric coach both schools have employed.
Unable to find a position as a pilot graduating college into a struggling industry, Krause, 26, got a job on the ground crew at a small airfield to stay in aviation. He always kept an eye out for openings. One day he stumbled on an intriguing blog by a man sharing Krause's desired position and surname.
The website chronicled every day of Keith Krause's life as a MetLife blimp pilot. It prompted Michael to research the job and send in a resume. It turned out, they were hiring.
"It's such a unique type of flying," Krause said. "It's an interesting rating to have on your pilot's certificate. Not many people fly (blimps)."
Krause has to take into account the pressure inside the 128-foot-long envelope, through which the 68,000 square feet of helium in holds inevitably diffuses. He must fill the "ballonet," or air bag, so the blimp doesn't sink below the optimum distance of 1,500 to 2,000 feet above ground.
"When you have all this camera equipment on board, when you have the pilot and the camera operator, it can make you heavier than you want to be."
Normally a line pilot, Krause has taken over the vacationing chief pilot's duties for the past few weeks. Aside from flying, Krause has had to coordinate the crew, schedule, flight arrangements and client and office relations.
"I guess I'll say disciplinarian too, making sure everyone looks nice," Krause said.
In the 14 months since taking the job, it's taken him from New York to Louisiana and everywhere in between. Rather than any one game, Krause's favorite assignment was hovering over Knoxville, Tenn., for ESPN's "College Gameday," a show that's been a staple for him on Saturday mornings like so many other college football fans.
This week, Krause will be flying the blimp back to Knoxville for Tennessee's game against No. 1 Alabama. The travel burns most pilots out, Krause said, making the job temporary for most, but he's content for the time being.
"Even though I'm not physically taking the images, the camera guy can't get in a good position to shoot without me knowing what I'm doing," Krause said. "…I've got friends back home watching the game, seeing the aerial shots and knowing, ‘Hey man, my friend was up there flying that game.' That's probably the best part for me."