Jordan Hudzicki, 20, a native of
Indiana, Pa. and a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) majoring
in geography, has been employed as a part-time operations supervisor at the Kovalchick
Convention and Athletic Complex (KCAC) for the last two-and-a-half years. The
KCAC, managed by Pinnacle Venue Services, regularly hosts concerts and events and
is also home court for the IUP men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams as well as
IUP women’s volleyball.
For the 2015–16 IUP basketball
season, CNB Bank, headquartered in Clearfield, Pa. with a branch in Indiana, Pa.,
agreed to sponsor the new promotional airship or “blimp” that KCAC Director of
Corporate Sales Mary Ann Lambrinos had wanted to produce for several years.
The purpose of the airship is to delight fans during event breaks by dropping
promotional coupons, gifts, and offers. Although a great idea for IUP Athletics
and for CNB Bank, there was only one problem. There was no pilot to fly the airship during the games. Enter Jordan, who
volunteered to learn how to fly the airship and be its pilot for all home
basketball competitions. He had no idea to what heights it would take him.
After familiarizing himself with
the complex remote control and practicing for hours in the dark Ed Fry Arena,
Jordan finally taught himself how to fly and operate the sensitive, helium-filled, present-dropping blimp in time for the IUP basketball season. It was a
great success for CNB Bank, IUP Basketball, and for Jordan, but, unbeknownst to
him, it wasn’t yet the end of his piloting career.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have
several large airships varying in size and shape that they have used over the
years. Chris Soltesz, chief pilot and captain of the airship crew at
Pittsburgh Penguins home
games, regularly auditions hopeful pilots, but, because of the fickle and
fragile nature of airships, not many receive an offer. Air conditioners, temperatures, patrons,
lights, and electrical wires all make flying an airship around Consol Energy
Center a job for a skilled and seasoned professional. Enter Jordan—again.
Jordan, because of his unique
skill and interests, was invited to shadow Chris at home games for the
remainder of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2015–16 season. Chris stated that “Jordan
has practiced with the ship and has a very good grasp of what is needed to
maintain it during a flight. I auditioned 34 professional pilots, technical
gurus, and most of them can’t do it. I finally found three candidates that I
could work with.” Jordan happens to be
one of those lucky candidates and wants to continue on his personal career
flight in airship handling. He has already secured a permanent position as the
CNB blimp pilot for the IUP basketball games over the next two years.
When asked what he thinks about
how his story has unfolded, Jordan stated “What’s the worst that can happen by
taking a chance? You have no idea where you may end up if you don’t travel the
unknown road.” Spoken like a true geography student.