Aviation and sightseeing enthusiasts will no longer be seeing a dirigible airship — one of only three Zeppelins in the world — flying in the U.S. Shortly after welcoming its 20,000th passenger, Airship Ventures announced on November 14, 2012 that it would be ceasing operations immediately.
Airship Ventures, based in Mountain View, CA, imported the airship from Germany to offer scenic flights over Northern California. Itineraries included wine country flights, operated out of the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport, and San Francisco Bay tours out of Oakland airport. Its home base was historic Moffett Field in Mountain View, where South Bay and extended tours to the Monterey/Big Sur coastline originated. Moffett Field was originally built in 1932 to house a 785-foot rigid airship and still offers hangars that can accommodate these large vessels.
The 246-foot-long 12-passenger Zeppelin NT has a top speed of 78 mph and a range of 560 miles and was completely FAA certified. Flights usually cruised at approximately 40 mph. Enthusiasts noted that this was the same model of airship that adventurer Steve Fosset piloted to set the airship speed record that stands today. The airship’s cabin affords 360-degree views and uses the inert gas helium for lift and vectored thrust engines for flight.
Most will remember that the last dirigible aircraft to fly in the U.S. was the German airship, Hindenberg, which ended its flying career with a fiery crash while on approach to an airport in New Jersey. Technology has come a long way since then, and the Zeppelin NT takes advantage of aluminum and new carbon fiber materials. This new airship features three 200hp engines, vectored thrust, as well as variable pitch propellers.
This flight behemoth was built in Germany and then made the transatlantic crossing aboard a container ship. Once on American soil in Texas, the airship began flying its way west with stops in western states, until finally crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge on October 25, 2008, to begin operations in the Bay Area.
View more Airship Ventures Zeppelin Photos