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!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Field Trip!

Some of the Airship Ventures team are off to Germany this weekend for an intensive week in Friedrichshafen at Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. We'll be posting at least once a day, and we're aiming to include some video and plenty of pictures. If there's anything Zeppelin related you want to make sure we take a picture of, contact us through our website and we'll do our best!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

my ten knot jeans aren't flapping too badly

Last week we spent a lot of time going around Bay Area airfields and open spaces with Zeppelin pilot, Scott, checking out the possibilities from a narrowed down list. Was there a big enough clear space? What were the approaches like? What were the dominant wind patterns? Dwayne, our facilities consultant, has been talking to multiple airport managers - "an airship? I think we have some sort of procedure for that in the filing cabinet." Our plans are to have a homebase with a hangar that we will fly from some of the time and then to operate for tourists from a number of Bay Area locations, hence the grand tour. Here are a few pictures from that tour.
["how do we get City Hall to build an airship landing zone into the redevelopment plan?"]
["hmm, is that C5 always there?"]

["Do you think we can persuade them not to grow crops?]

["the tower says that the ceiling is nearing 1000ft]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


"I think there was once a blimp city brewery" said Scott, the Zeppelin pilot and airship operations consultant we’ve been spending time with. Suitably inspired, I went a-googlin’. Indeed, Blimp City Brewery once existed in Akron Ohio, but alas it is no more. You can find reviews on and it seems to have produced some good beverages, but unless you find a supply somewhere, your chances of tasting it are somewhat slim.

Still in business however is the Tustin Brewing Company, and they make Blimp Hangar Porter.

But if beer is not your tipple, then perhaps you should explore Red Zeppelin wines. While we don't like their logo (we hope after we get flying the wine country and people see how safe our Zeppelin is that they might rethink), we do like the logo for one of their red wines and we really laughed at this cool picture of 'Bread Zeppelin'. We hope that they'll forgive us for putting it here and directing a little traffic to their site...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Airship Amusement

I finally got around to downloading a murder mystery game that I had spotted while surfing. It's called Zeppelin Airship Murder.

"The year is 1931 and the Airship "Titan" is on its 10th voyage across the Atlantic from Europe to the USA. The passenger list reads like a "Who's Who" of the rich, famous and glamorous globe trotters.

You have been invited to dine at the Captain's table tonight as the Airship glides majestically over the calm ocean below. You are dressed for dinner and arrive on time but the Captain is not there to greet his personal guests. Finally, word arrives of a disturbance in the observation room and the Captain is missing - presumed dead. But who killed the Captain and why?

The Airship Ventures team are overdue for another social gathering, so we'll play it soon and let you know what we think!