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

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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.