November 16, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
The only way you'll get to experience a ride in a monster Zeppelin NT (new technology) is to travel to Friedrichshafen, Germany, and call Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei for tickets. Airship Ventures, operating one of the craft in the San Francisco area, ceased operations suddenly on Nov. 14. The company is refunding ticket charges.
You can see what you missed in a video made by the AOPA team. The airship also made an appearance at EAA AirVenture in recent years.
The bad news could be reversed if a benefactor is found quickly. The company needed a major sponsor to continue. In the past, that role was filled by Farmers Insurance Group. The company has launched a Twitter and Facebook campaign to find a sponsor, using the hashtag #saveeureka.
The Moffett Field-based company had a perfect safety record. “Operating this unique aircraft has been an inspiring experience and it is with a very heavy heart that we've come to this point requiring us to cease operations and ground Eureka,” said Airship Ventures CEO Brian Hall.
Passenger flights began in 2008 in Silicon Valley, Oakland and San Francisco, and Long Beach, most recently expanding to California's wine country. Eureka had performed a wide variety of special missions for government, science and research groups, including recent expansion into airship design, and research and development.
Since its founding, the company had faced an economic recession that affected regular passenger numbers and demanded the need for a regular sponsorship partner for the company to remain viable. Adding to this, a world helium shortage increased the company's operating costs and the pressure to find a long-term sponsor that has not materialized. The company posted a phone message that any would-be sponsors should call immediately, but the extension for that contact does not answer.
Rides started at $375 and increased to $1,000 for an “ultimate” tour.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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