Let’s Fly Away: Meet a different kind of pilot, April 21 at ‘Great Conversations’

The pilot of the MetLife 'The pilot of the MetLife 'Snoopy' airship is a scheduled guest at the 2016 Great Conversations dinner.
The pilot of the MetLife 'Snoopy' airship is a scheduled guest at the 2016 Great Conversations dinner.
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The pilot of the MetLife 'The pilot of the MetLife 'Snoopy' airship is a scheduled guest at the 2016 Great Conversations dinner.
The pilot of the MetLife ‘Snoopy’ airship is a scheduled guest at the 2016 Great Conversations dinner.

By Peggy Carroll

Terry Dillard would find it hard to start a union for people who do his job.

After all, how many folks do you know who drive a blimp? It is a profession as rare as the number of blimps.

Dillard is chief captain of the MetLife blimp Snoopy One, with nearly a quarter century’s experience flying dirigibles all around the country. In fact, he is traveling up to 90 percent of the time.

On April 21, 2016, his travels will land him at the Madison Hotel, where he will be a featured guest at the 8th annual Great Conversations, the major fund-raiser for Morris Arts.

Terry Dillard, left, will share his tales of aviation adventure at Great Conversations, on April 21, 2016.
Terry Dillard, left.

And there he will be glad to share with the guests what it’s like to fly one of the world’s best-known airships.

The event, billed as the “best dinner party in town with great dining and great company,” brings together a host of conversationalist hosts who have racked up remarkable achievements in the arts, sports, public service, health care, industry, and science.

Guests can mingle with all the stellar hosts during a pre-dinner cocktail hour and dine with a table host of their choice.

It gives an opportunity to learn about their work, their thoughts on the world, insights into their fields and experiences that have shaped their lives – from how they started to how they to got to where they are now.

This year’s list includes an Olympic track champion, a well-known radio personality, a television news anchor, a personal photographer to John and Yoko, a hospital president – and Terry Dillard

Dillard started his career by flying balloons for tourists at Disney World and Sea World in Orlando, and in 1991 changed over to airships. Unlike balloons, which are often at the will of the winds, dirigibles can be directed, he explained.

Dillard takes his Snoopy airship to events as varied as golf tournaments, where they provide aerial coverage, to many of the biggest events across the nation. “It’s like joining the circus,” he holds. “You change cities every seven days.”

There is also work he and his team (including ground crew) do that isn’t as obvious: With charitable organizations, especially children’s hospitals. There are times when he takes a child just discharged from a hospital and his/her family to fly on the airship.

“I like that,” he has said.

In fact, his satisfaction with his job is immense. “I can’t measure how much I love my job. I love it every day.”

Great Conversations will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:15 pm. Tickets are $225 per person. They can be purchased online at www.Morrisarts.org.

At registration, ticket buyers sign up for their top five conversationalist choices in priority order. Seating assignments are based on the time paid registration is received.

Proceeds help support programs and services of the nonprofit, including arts education, arts programming in the community, grants, scholarship, advocacy, community-building events and support for artists and arts organizations – all with the goal of enriching and improving the quality of life.

Founded in 1973, Morris Arts is dedicated to engaging and building community through the arts.

MORE ABOUT ‘GREAT CONVERSATIONS’ 2016

PRIOR GREAT CONVERSATIONS

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