Airship Ventures flies tourists over L.A. in the Eureka Zeppelin. The company announced this week it has grounded operations due to a ten-fold increase in the price of helium and lack of long-term sponsor.
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.