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Airship Ventures goes down: Coda for Eureka Zeppelin unless a corporate sponsor rises

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SF Gate reports that a world helium shortage and a lack of consistent sponsorship has taken the lift out of California-based Airship Ventures, the company operating the Eureka Zeppelin.

"There's still a one- to two-week window for a white-knight corporate sponsor" to step forward, said CEO Brian Hall, adding that for $5 million to $6 million, a company could tack its logo on the side of the Zeppelin for one year. "It is with a very heavy heart that we've come to this point."

The Eureka — one of two German-built Zeppelin NTs — stayed afloat for four years, carrying 20,000 passengers over Northern and Southern California.

"It's an inelegant end for the Eureka," Hall said of the "world's largest passenger airship" which faces a fate of being disassembled and sent back to Germany unless a sponsor climbs aboard. Refunds are currently being issued and social-media efforts to save the company are underway.

For clarification, the Eureka, is not a blimp, but an authentic Zeppelin built by the Zeppelin company in Friedrichshafen, Germany. (Get to know your dirigibles HERE).

The airship is 246-feet long (15-feet longer than a Boeing 747, and 50-feet longer than the largest commercial blimps, notes SF Gate ), holds 12 passengers, has panoramic windows that open during flight, and a 180-degree rear observation window. Its "flightseeing" travel speed is about 35-40 miles per hour, and tours cost $375-$950 per passenger.


In the official grounding annoucent, officials reviewed some of the Eureka's milestones:

  • History-making, six-month coast to coast cross country tour in 2011.
  • Broke the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) airship distance record in 2010.
  • Provided aerial coverage for the Rose Bowl Game and other major sports events.
  • Partnered with NASA and SETI on meteorite seeking missions.
  • Used as training vessel for the U.S. Air Force’s test pilots.
  • Hired and trained the first female Zeppelin pilot (and first American female Zeppelin pilot).


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