Visit Atlantic City

Published on Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blimp travel: making a comeback?

A start-up company is planning to take tourist up in a 250-foot zeppelin over the San Francisco Bay, Napa Valley and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Airship Ventures said it plans to begin passenger flights in a German-made Zeppelin NT airship, to be based at NASA's Moffett Field airstrip about 40 miles south of San Francisco, reported

The project will use a massive NT07 airship made by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik that's a full 10 feet longer than the new Airbus 380.

"You cannot buy a ticket to fly on an airship in the USA," said Alexandra Hall, Airship Venture's chief executive. "This is an opportunity you cannot have right now that we are providing to people."

No prices have been disclosed, but a Web site with merchandise and additional details is supposed to go live this month.

In addition to sightseeing over the scenic Bay area at 500 feet to 1,000 feet above ground level, Mr Hall said, other uses for the vehicle would include surveillance, science, media coverage of sporting events, and advertising.

 The NT07 can hold 12 passengers and two pilots.

One potential hitch is that the Federal Aviation Administration has not approved the NT07 for flights inside the US, though it does have a proceeding underway.

Zeppelins can stay aloft for eight or more hours, far more than a helicopter or a plane; they are much quieter as well.

Unlike the airships of the early 20th century, modern zeppelins are filled with non-flammable helium gas. The 1937 Hindenburg disaster occurred because the aircraft was filled with flammable hydrogen gas in part because of a prewar helium embargo from the US, reported wire services.

Airship Ventures points out that its NT07 airship is not a blimp. That's because blimps are akin to balloons that hold their shape based on the pressure of the gas, while rigid and semi-rigid airships have an internal framework.

Report by David Wilkening

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