"It’s a little bit airplane, a little bit balloon,
and a little bit helicopter,” pilot Corky
Belanger said of the Farmers Airship.
The airship is one of only two Zeppelin NTs in the world, and at 246
feet, it’s 15 feet longer than a 747 and just a tad longer than the 238-
foot Airbus A380. The newest Zeppelin is the most advanced airship
ever built with a glass panel and fly-by-wire controls.
The Farmers Airship, christened Eureka, is owned and operated
by Airship Ventures, which has been offering “flightseeing” tours
from its base at Moffett Field near San Jose, California, since 2008. In
April it embarked on a six-month coast-to-coast tour through 26
states, marking the first time this Zeppelin has traveled the country.
“Being on tour is a whole new experience,” Brian Hall,
Airship Ventures CEO and founder, said. “It’s a cross between a
traveling circus and 1920s barnstorming. It’s something unique
to take all across the country.”
HISTORY RETURNS AFTER 70 YEARS
The airship has its roots in the Civil War, but its heyday was the
1920s and 1930s, during a time before jet engines and transoceanic flights made in hours, not days.
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, a German
officer, visited the United States as a military
observer in 1863. During his visit he flew in a
balloon for the first time, and then spent the
next few decades designing an airship with a
rigid internal structure. His first airship was
patented in the United States in 1899 and
made its first flight a year later over Lake
Constance in Friedrichshafen, Germany—the
home of Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH,
maker of today’s Zeppelin NTs.
By 1909, several advances in the airframe
led to the formation of the world’s first passenger airline, DELAG (Deutsche
German Airship Transportation Corporation
Ltd.). During World War I, Germany used
Zeppelins to bomb England as airplanes were
still evolving into weapons of war.
The most successful Zeppelin ever built
was the Graf Zeppelin. In 1928 it made the
first commercial trans-Atlantic flight. By
the time it was retired nine years later it