For Christmas Ken gave me a sunset cruise on Airship Ventures' Zeppelin NT. It was an amazing aviation experience and I enthusiastically recommend it for anyone interested in aviation or sightseeing. I've done a fair amount of flying around the Bay Area but nothing approaches the majesty of an airship gliding through the air at a stately 50mph, down low at 1000'. And quiet, calm, incredibly beautiful. I took some pretty good photos.
Zeppelin history is interesting; there was a time when you could take an elegant three day transatlantic voyage on an airship, the Empire State Building was built with a mooring mast, and 780 foot long airships were used as aircraft carriers. (Watch this video of an F9C Sparrowhawk landing on the USS Macon!) After the heydays of the 1910s–30s zeppelins were almost an abandoned technology, but thanks to Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik and customers like Airship Ventures there's hope for a comeback.

The Eureka N704LZ is the only zeppelin operating in the US. She's fairly small by zeppelin standards, carrying 14 people (compared to the 100–120 people of a Hindenberg-sized aircraft). Airship Ventures is a bold startup, a bet that this class of flight has an important future. They're great for sightseeing and also have businesses training pilots and flying sensor packages. They've raised $10.5M to date. There's a fair amount of ground crew required and the airship itself costs €12-15M. We were lucky to have the founder Brian Hall on the flight with us, his enthusiasm and knowledge was really impressive.

The Eureka travels up and down the California coast. We took a two hour sunset tour from Moffett which was fantastic; I think an hour tour from Oakland would be quite amazing as well. We're very lucky to have this airship flying in California; take advantage of it!

  2012-02-10 18:59 Z