Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seasonal Slowdown

People say that things slow down around this time of year. I'm still waiting for that to happen.....

I think I'm going to create a chart that shows current workload vs blog posting frequency. With the exception of making a very serious effort while we were in Germany ( and even then, most of the posts happened while I was taking a short break afterwards!), it seems that the more there is to do, the further down the to-do list the blog slides!

We owe our regular readers more than that (do I hear a New Years Resolution coming on?), and we'll give some thought to how we can do better. I can tell you that the pace is going to pick up considerably in the New Year, so hopefully that will mean lots of new information and musings.

But in the meantime, in case you hadn't spotted it on our website, here's our festive Zeppelin and best wishes from the Airship Ventures team to airship fans everywhere.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The 1000ft High Club

I got a phonecall late last week from Hiller Aviation Museum where I’m a board member. There was an opportunity to go for a ride in Hiller’s beautifully restored 1945 DC3 on Saturday afternoon, an hour or so cruising around the Bay. Did we want to go? Next dumb question?!

We set off in the middle of the afternoon after warming up the engines and flew out of Hayward Airport into a blue sky with broken clouds. We headed across the Bay and went over the first range of hills into the valley where freeway 280 snakes past some wonderful scenery and reservoirs. The long line of Stanford Linear Accelerator provided a cool landmark, as did the radio dishes.
The coastline was clear of fog, providing wonderful views in the late afternoon sun. After exploring the miles of open space on the penninsula, dotted with houses the size of hotels, we came back in over Palo Alto and headed towards San Francisco, catching the sun on the skyscrapers and on the Golden Gate bridge.
A flight over the bridge (yay!) and Alcatraz, past Berkeley and down the East Bay, watching all the traffic backed up at the Toll Plaza, headed for an evening in San Francisco, soon bought the sightseeing to a close.
But it had been the closest views we have had yet to what the experience on the Zeppelin will be like. The altitude was about the same. We moved from small airplane window to window to find the best views - the Zeppelin has windows all around and there were times when people missed things due to the speed of flight. At about 30mph, we won't have that challenge with the airship. We can't wait!

Thank you to Steve and Barb Hiller for being such gracious hosts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bay Area blimpin'

Extreme airship fans probably know about Keith's blog, 'Blimpin' ain't easy', on being a new airship pilot for Snoopy 2, one of the MetLife blimps. It's an interesting peek into the life of a traveling airship. I spotted that in a recent trip to the Bay Area, Keith had taken a lot of photos of the scenery and I think it gives some idea of what we're likely to see with the Zeppelin.

Snoopy 2 is a small and nimble blimp. The gondola is secured to the pressurized envelope by means of lots of wires, and it also has ropes for the ground crew to grab when it lands. So you have to be clever with where you point the camera not to have ropes and wires in your money shot!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

If Only..

I often wonder how many people are coming across us because they're looking for the band...

Monday, November 12, 2007

If you don't think it's a good idea...

As mentioned in the last post, we went to present at the City of Mountain View council meeting last Tuesday. While we were scheduled to present at 6.30pm, a controversial planning issue delayed the start of the meeting until 9pm, which gave us a chance to check out the yummy Shivas restaurant in Downtown Mountain View.

Our presentation was short, and as expected, picked up by the local press. This is great. The point of us reaching out to the community was to see what issues there could be, if any, with us proposing to NASA that we take space in Hangar 2, and to be able then to address those questions and concerns.

NASA have a lot to of issues to balance when making a decision like this. We know that it costs a great deal to maintain the airfield, but that because of noise and related concerns from the local community, they have many restrictions on what can and can't be done there. In addition, they have their own internal restrictions on what types of activities and partnerships are acceptable. And finally, the historic structures only have certain uses. So our approach was to make sure that we'd covered as many of the issues as possible to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Because we think it would be awesome to have an airship back at Moffett Field. And now that we've presented at a public meeting, we can also talk about our plans here on the blog. Let us know your thoughts!

Friday, November 2, 2007

November Already?!

The more hectic it gets, the less time we find to post on our blog. As they say, no news is good news, but, dear reader, you deserve more than silence from us, so here's some snippets.

Last week we were at the X Prize Executive Summit and then we hung out at the X Prize Cup. While our airships aren't directly space related, there are plenty of things being done with airship related technology in the NewSpace arena and many of the issues that we face in doing something unusual in aviation are also faced by the new private space start ups - financing, regulatory hurdles etc. So we have a lot of friends there.

We have the 'gang' here this week, with Scott, our pilot, visiting to work with us on all manner of fun items. Michael Schieschke from Zeppelin is popping down having been to Winnipeg to present at the Airships to the Arctic conference and we have all kinds of meetings scheduled!

On Tuesday you'll find us at the City of Mountain View Council meeting. We're keen to hear community points of view relating to our proposal to bring an airship back to the area, and presenting at the Council Meeting seems like a good way to get that feedback. Last week we also met with the Moffett Field Historical Society board, which was a real pleasure for us.

So plenty going on, and once we come up for air, we'll let you know the highlights.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

AGE85 - Renewable Bio AvGas

Being in California, when speaking about the Zeppelin, it often comes up that airships are a relatively green form of transportation. The question then arises -- can we run on biodiesel? The short answer to that is "no" -- our Lycoming engines run on Aviation Gas (AvGas), not diesel. However that doesn't mean that there aren't other renewable sources of fuel that are potentially suitable.

One such solution I ran across while doing some research is AGE-85 -- short for Aviation Grade Ethanol. Ethanol as an internal combustion engine fuel has been around nearly as long as the engines themselves. In modern times it was studied in earnest in the 70s, and is enjoying interest -- and development -- once again.

The beauty of AGE85 is that rather than requiring a switch to diesel engines -- no small feat -- AGE-85 can be used as a replacement for traditional avgas.

According to

"AGE-85 (Aviation Grade Ethanol) is a high-performance fuel that may be used in any piston engine aircraft. It contains approximately 85% ethanol, along with light hydrocarbons and biodiesel fuel. AGE-85 is specifically blended for cold starting and good mixture balance. AGE is unleaded, burns cleaner, has lower exhaust emissions and is more environmentally friendly than traditional aviation fuels. The ethanol in AGE-85 prevents carburetor and fuel line icing, and provides excellent detonation margins."

Sounds promising, if not yet a reality.

Der Ostwind

A few months ago, I purchased an Apple TV. Apple TV is sort of a video iPod, optimized for use with your TV, preferably a nice HDTV. You can purchase music, videos and movies from the iTunes Music Store, or load it up with content that you already have on hand. We have used it many times when guests have visited to show slides and movies of trips to Zeppelin. Sort of like dragging out the old 8mm film or slide projector was when I was a child.

Of course the first thing I did when I got it out of the box, was to look for some content to purchase. I didn't want to spend alot of time downloading, so I searched for shorts. While browsing the Sundance Film Festival, I came across what looked like an obvious choice -- Der Ostwind.

Der Ostwind is done in the style of Sky Captain -- a wonderful mix of live acting set on computer generated backdrops. It is the tale of an German ace that finds his match -- and struggles with questions of honor and self -- in the skies of WWI.

You can purchase Der Ostwind for $1.99 at the iTunes store.

Der Ostwind, widescreen, run time 0:10:45, German with English sub-titles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why the British don't like Zeppelins

[Tongue in Cheek posting] Our eagle eyed correspondent, Peter, residing in the UK, sent me another piece from a British Newspaper, passing comment on a documentary about the Hindenburg with the statement that the disaster '..put paid to airship travel forever...". Not true of course. Peter, a known wit, followed it up with a jotting which I share for your amusement.

"There is undoubtedly a deep prejudice against (and fear of?) airships in the U.K., which underlay David Chater's relief at being able to write off airships with the expiry of the Hindenburg. Reasons?
1 They are slow (and quiet) (and, thereby, threatening).

2 They are big (and they 'loom') (and are, thereby, threatening).
3 They tend to explode (we don't understand the hydrogen/helium shift, yet).
4 They were used by the Germans in the War.

5 We don't like objects with names beginning with the letter Z.

6 We didn't invent them.

7 People can see your washing {laundry} in your back gardens, from them.*

8 We have weather. (Foreigners don't.) Airships can't work in our kind of weather.

9 We distrust all politicians ( air...balloons...airships).
10 They are fun. We don't do fun. (Except when we go on holiday)

*British people mostly hang laundry outside to dry, except when it rains and then they will use racks inside the house, or possibly even a 'tumble drier'. Nosy people enjoy passing comment on the cleanliness and content of other peoples washing lines. In the USA there are places where you are not allowed to hang out your washing to dry - I used to live in such a place. Discriminates against my British culture I'd say... .

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy 10th for D-LZFN (Heute ha-ha-habe ich Geburtstag)

Heute ha ha habe ich Geburtstag...

Today marks the 10th anniversay of the maiden flight of Zeppelin NT07 Werknummer 01, (our ship is number 4 in the series production of this model). This ship, christened the "Friedrichshafen" after her birthplace, was piloted on that day by our very own Scott Danneker before a crowd of thousands, including the media and honored veterans of the era of the silver Zeppelins.

It was a a defining moment in a project dating back to 1993, when Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik was founded with the goal of once again building airships in Friedrichshafen.

Since that time, over 65,000 passengers have been carried in comfort and safety, 2 additional ships were built, another is under construction, and Zeppelins now operate on 3 continents (soon to be 4!).

Happy Anniversary!

(It also happens to be my birthday, but I'm older than 10!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Go fly the "Lindenberg"

Second Life, the online virtual community of more than 9 million people, gives users the opportunity to spend their Linden dollars on airships. While the Zeppelin NT isn't there (yet), an enterprising group called Second Skies have a wide range of airships for your perusal, all at a bargain 700 Linden dollars ($3 at average exchange rates between the Linden and USD).

If you're feeling wealthy, you can also acquire the "Lindenburg". The clever name, however, is about all it shares in common with its more famous namesake. It boasts multiple decks, 2 story condos and all modern amenities for a mere $64 USD. I suspect that the online version doesn't have to worry about payload and lift...

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I tried to find a word that meant surfing the shores of the internet via Google and picking on interesting snippets that were washed up, but I failed. So net-combing (instead of beach combing) it is.

Anyway, while netcombing to see how far and wide the latest stories about us had propagated, I found an article in a travel ezine and the picture stopped me in my tracks. Just exactly what IS this? A toy (the red propeller blades would hint at that)? Someone's first play with a digital rendering program?

And where is it exactly? Mars in the future with water? The mind boggles. I can't understand why they don't use a proper picture of a Zeppelin. It's not like you can't easily get one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hangars in the News

I've previously blogged about the issues that many communities face in trying to figure out what to do with the large airship hangars in their midst. The Save Hangar One folks are out gathering for a new petition in advance of the new report on what to do with it. It will be interesting to hear the comments at the Restoration Advisory Board meeting on Thursday. The comments are normally well covered at the web page which is how we tend to keep up to date, but perhaps we will pop along this time.

Interest in Hangar One resulting in us becoming a story for the local rags again this weekend with speculation about where we might be based, despite us not issuing any press releases. But the fact that people want to know about us, and that there were positive comments made, is rather gratifying. Of course, it always comes with challenges, as you can't fact check what reporters do, so you're at the mercy of their research skills. But the stories resulted in some fun comments regarding the name of the ship. Something for another blog entry I think.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Waiting for a ride.

Thought you'd like to see this wonderful picture sent to us by Scott D, Zeppelin pilot and a member of our valuable consultant team. He's flying in Botswana right now with D-LZFN "Friedrichshafen", the NT prototype.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Zeppelin Museum Highlights

No visit to Friedrichshafen would be complete without a visit to the Zeppelin Museum. I went to visit with both my former professional hat of museum director and my new hat of Zeppelin enthusiast firmly on my head. It is overall a fascinating place.

The most impressive exhibit is the partial Hindenburg replica, complete with some bedrooms, a lounge and the writing room. These are very faithful indeed to the original and give some sense of the grandeur of travel at this time in history. While it could be enhanced by moving videos outside the windows, and some sound, it was still an enjoyable experience.

It was easy to spend a lot of time with the engines and structures exhibits. To see the engine gondola from Graf Zeppelin was quite incredible. I had read the excellent book by Eugen Bentele, "The Story of a Zeppelin Mechanic" as well as Paul Lagasse's 'Seeing Through Clouds' and this exhibit really made those experiences real for me.

I was also intruigued by the two galleries showcasing artifacts from the first world war Zeppelins as well as the time just before the second world war. Unfortunately the items are in glass cases, with back lit displays behind them presumably to encourage compliance with the 'no photos' logos on the entrances to these two rooms. However, it was possible with some patience to try some longer exposures and I was able to capture this piece of a war Zeppelin sold to finance the war effort, and these dominoes from the Hindenburg. Can you spot the purple Zeppelins?

The traveling exhibit gallery currently features the Zeppelin NT. Also worth a peek to get the history on the new Zeppelins.

The visit ended too quickly. When I think back, there aren't as many artifacts as one would expect, perhaps symptomatic of the fact that the original Zeppelin hangars and Zeppelins were dismantled and mostly recycled. However it was unusual for there not to be originals of the wonderful advertising posters, and more items such as plates and silverware, philately, brochures etc.

Is that a Zeppelin in your pocket..?

No comment.

The web address you can see is for the Zeppelin Shop in Friedrichshafen where you can get Zeppelin stuff, but not pin up girls.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Up Ship (2)

The highlight of my trip to Zeppelin was of course, to take a ride in the airship. It is an amazing experience and actually quite difficult to describe. The take off was a non event, we were airborne before I knew it. The gondola is very quiet and peaceful, with wonderful views from all windows and the ability to open windows to be able to take pictures without reflections. As it was such a perfect flying day, Pilot Hans Paul Stroehle allowed both of us to take a turn in the right seat and generously answered all of our questions about flying Zeppelins. Thanks HP! (He also takes great pictures which you can find here)

The views of the vast amount of agriculture in this lovely part of the world, the flower island of Mainau and the lake served to tantalize us when we considered what incredible views of the San Francisco Bay Area, wine country etc we would be able to get. Patience, patience...

Number Four

As you know, Airship Ventures has optioned Zeppelin NT07 serial number 4. It was very cool to see her being assembled in the hangar. As the structure is black carbon fiber, the hangar is very large and also full of structural members, it was very hard to get a reasonable picture of the progress. But just about all the hull structural members are up, along with the engine beam, fin and rudder supports etc.

In addition, the carbon fiber gondola is also taking shape, with the cockpit being installed.

It's difficult to get a feel for the scale of the airship until you get close to one. Here's Brian with Robert, the Chief Engineer at Zeppelin, under number 3.

Flight Preparations

We took many photos on our trip to Zeppelin (as you can imagine). The ship, devoid of most graphics, was taken out of the hangar on a perfect sunny day. It had been stormy the day before and the ship had been put in the hangar that afternoon. During the night, Josef from Airborne Grafix had been removing the Mainau decals in preparation for the application of the new EADS Space logos.

After the first flight, the ground crew stand waiting for the ship to land. Note the limp windsock which dropped just as I took this picture. There actually were a few knot winds on that day.

I also like this picture of the ground crew member on the rope, singular. Nice to contrast this to the Zeppelins of old, or indeed modern blimps that need a few more pairs of hands than this.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Driving Tests?

I'm detouring via the UK on my way back to California from a successful week in Friedrichshafen. Being a Brit, I have friends and family and always a number of bits and pieces to take care of. This trip I was able to find a short time to detour to Cardington while driving between the A1 and the M1 and I got to peek at the massive airship hangars there. I remember driving past them many times during my childhood and the story of the R100 and R101 is a fascinating one which I won't go into here. I couldn't find a way to get very close, the only road I could find advertised the home of the Driving Standards Agency - the place you go in the UK if you want to train to become a driving instructor. I did managed to find a good location where a short walk took me to a gap in the hedge to take a nice photo. Green and pleasant land indeed.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New airship envelope material?

On the main waterfront street in Friedrichshafen you can find the Zeppelin Store. It stocks a more comprehensive range of goodies than the store at the Zeppelin Museum (which I understand is outsourced) and it includes some of the branded items from DZR (although I would suggest you buy those online or at their passenger facilities).

One of the rather unusual items that it stocks are Zeppelins of various sizes made in Africa out of scrap metal, usually from cans. Not sure it would get through an FAA certification....but its certainly colorful!

Is it a boat? Is it a plane?

Friedrichshafen is full of Zeppelin things. Like this climbing structure. None of us had imbibed enough good German beer to pretend to fly it for a more amusing photo but I think both of the bystanders were wishing that they were seven years old and could climb in. I think we'll need to have some things like this at our passenger facilities, sized for both adults and children*.

* there is a Zeppelin simulator at the Zeppelin Museum that is run on an occasional basis when a pilot is available. Cool.

Pilot in the making

One of the pleasures of hanging out in the passenger facilities at Friedrichshafen was getting to find out why people were traveling. I soon discovered that the people enjoying an ice cream, beer or the sunshine were not always passengers or their relatives. On one visit I sat at a table that included a charismatic two year old and his father. The boy was a big Zeppelin fan, and almost every weekend he came to eat ice cream and watch the ship landing and taking off. It struck me that this little boy was lucky for he lived in one of the only places in the world where a child could be regularly inspired by these beautiful aircraft and he could tell his teacher that he wished to be a Zeppelin pilot without being laughed at. I hope he never loses his enthusiasm, and that it won't be too long before he gets to fly.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Up Ship (1)

Today was an early start so that we could watch the ground crew and pilot get the ship ready for flight. The weather was very calm and the ship came out of the hangar devoid of adverts - the Mainau artwork had been taken off the night before. We watched Paul, the pilot, go through all the system checks and get the ship started, and then the first passengers came out and boarded. Then they were airborne.

Another set of passengers had arrived and were enjoying an early morning coffee, then it was their turn for briefing and to be driven out to the field to wait the incoming ship. The changeover took 4 minutes and 12 seconds, a polished performance by a friendly ground and passenger transfer crew, and then finally the engines swiveled into the vertical position and up she went, making a turn through 200 degrees and heading off for another tour of the lake. Wow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I need a huge MAN

The Mast Truck for a Zeppelin is its ‘airport’. It needs to dock with the mast for refueling and for being taken in and out of the hangar. It’s also a place of refuge at the start and end of the day and for windy weather. The Zeppelin doesn’t need to be on the mast to transfer passengers, which is actually pretty neat and means a changeover can be done in a matter of minutes.

Here at Zeppelin they have two mast trucks and their favorite is this four-axle monster that carries the hydraulic masthead, portable generator, supplies, cables etc. My comment to Brian about the ground support equipment we need (the title of this piece) was overheard by our hosts who were seen smirking, language clearly not being a barrier to this double entendre.

That's Us!

We spotted this newspaper clipping on the noticeboard at the DZR passenger facilities. Even if you don't read German, it's pretty obvious what it says and we think it looks good flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, don't you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Zeppelin NT (Neue Toilette)

We heard that when the Zeppelin NT prototype was built it didn't have a toilet aboard, leading to a joke about the NT (which actually stands for New Technology) meaning 'no toilet'. Just to reassure our potential passengers, the Zeppelin does have a loo. (good British word there, albeit with a French origin.)

Here are some pictures of the toilet in #3 and one under construction for #4. I have a great picture of the blueprint for the toilet. Perhaps it would make a fun poster..

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Fliegerbier or two..

As a result of our previous post regarding Zeppelin related alcohol, Sig Geist sent us a picture of a beer bottle he has featuring a 1910 era Zeppelin AND the Count himself. Very cool.

Today Brian discovered additional Zeppelin beer in a special thirst quenching size which you can obtain at the gift store at the DZR passenger facilities in Friedrichshafen. Sadly, due to the restrictions on carrying liquids through airport security, we will not be bringing some back as carry on unless we can find 500 friends to each have a small bottle in their ziplock baggie. However our Zeppelin friends assure us that the glass is strong enough for us to ship it.

We'll look into what it would take to get some imported for our store...

Sunday, August 19, 2007


My plane landed at Friedrichshafen this afternoon (Sunday) and as we hit the runway I could see the Zeppelin on the mast - her crew watching the stormy skies trying to decide if it would rain, or if they could fly for a while. She did eventually take off and flew through breaking clouds into the early evening. Tomorrow I will get to see her up close, and also see the pieces of number four in the hangar. Can't wait!