Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eureka hangs out with a new friend (1968 Unimog)






Jim and I drove this 1968 Mercedes Unimog fire command vehicle down to Moffett on Sunday. Manny was on watch, and gave us a hand checking it out. He has an agricultural unimog back at home.

Aside from going nearly deaf driving down the highway in this spartan vehicle, we enjoyed the waves and smiles that come with driving a fire truck in public.

It carries a Metz pump (built on a volkswagen car engine) in the rear, with hoses and accessories in the side mounted storage areas. The cabin is 3-door, with a bench seat and fold-out desk surface for spreading out maps.

Amazingly, when asking some visitors if they had noticed the truck next to the ship, somehow they had missed it. Big and Red counts for something on the road, but apparantly is not enough to catch attention when sitting in a 1000 foot long hangar next to a Zeppelin!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

So, you're wondering, why is Meghan so utterly delighted to be holding a commercial vehicle license plate? It belongs to the historic Mercedes mast truck and the fact that we have a plate means that Meghan's many months of navigating the paperwork of various agencies is over.

It's a big challenge when you own a 32tonne vehicle that is unique, never been imported to the USA before, not based on any truck that is already here, AND happens to be part of the aircraft. No-one is quite sure what to do with it. So Meghan has been helping them figure it all out, by looking for analogs, clauses and possibilities. We've been down a number of dead end paths, but finally we moved from a temporary to permanent registration just before we headed to Long Beach.

People often assume that you are only in 'start up' mode until you start the operations. But when you are constantly breaking new ground and rewriting the rule books, it's a never ending treadmill of forms, meetings and paperwork and I'm sure we'll still be tying up things way past the first anniversary of the airship arrival!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And so to bed...

Wheels Down 8:50pm

Welcome home Eureka

Last Rays

Catching the Sunset

We're making good time now, but we had a strong headwind coming up the
valley until we passed Salinas. At one point it was 32 knots on the
nose!

Waiting for my 'ship to come in...

The winds started to drop and the 'ship did not stop in Salinas, so they're now on their way again with much more favorable conditions and should be landing in about an hour - yay! I have the champagne on ice...

Mining

Ballast?

The team consensus was that Pam needs to buy one large suitcase! Pam, Tamara, Brian and Alex T have returned safely with the passenger van.

Latest news is that the ship will mast in Salinas for re-ballast (possibly refuel) before heading to Moffett. I'll keep you posted.

Advance party has arrived...

The team are arriving bit by bit to Moffett. Evaldez and Sven were the first two in. Almost all the ground support vehicles are ahead of the airship by virtue of the airship encountering pretty stiff headwinds. After the headwinds got to 32knots, the ship climbed to 2000ft and found better conditions, but its still slow going as can be seen from the tracks! We now expect them to arrive between 9 and 10pm tonight. Fortunately, they have a lot of food and beverages on board and by all accounts, no-one is yet bored of the amazing changing scenery!

Making Tracks

Vineyards

Oil Slicks - Pretty But Sad

Photo Op - Mast Truck Abeam

We just spotted the mast truck pacing us on the highway.

Cockpit VIP!

We're seeing some wonderful stories posted by people who flew with us. A new friend, Danny Sullivan, came to see us take off from Moffett Field on our way down and was also able to go for a flight on Sunday to celebrate his 17th wedding anniversary. Danny's post is here (thanks for the pic!) and explains more about the surprise he got when he realized we had a luminary of aircraft design aboard - Burt Rutan. Danny also includes some neat video of the airship interior - if you were wondering!

Coastal View

Watching the pelicans fish down below.

10am departure

6 lucky passengers have joined us today for the 'ultimate drive up HWY 1'
(highway 1 is the scenic route up the California coast)

Pilot in command is Katherine, joined by Fritz, with myself as flight
attendant.

We're expecting to take 8-10 hours for the return trip. A serene
journey past L.A, Malibu, Santa Barbara and then inland for a bit
before returning to the coast again further north.

I've increased the ping frequency for today on our web based tracking
page.

Up Ship! (again)

Off mast at 10:07am this morning, into a clearing marine layer. (Thanks Matthew for the shot)

Los Angeles Routes

Here is a quick grab of the tracking map from the airship for the past few days. As you can see, there's plenty more places for us to fly yet! Follow the map here as we transit back up the coast today. Lift off is scheduled for 10am. Bon Voyage Eureka!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Propping eachother up?

Matt S keeps a firm grip on Marley (L) and Pam (R) from our Guest Services team. Don't want them wandering around on the airfield...you never know what strange men with odd ear wear they might meet..! Marley recently headed down to Long Beach to provide another much-needed pair of hands.

The crew are currently awaiting the return of Eureka's last flight of this trip to Long Beach. Tomorrow she heads home with seven passengers on board and we're all looking forward to welcoming her and our team, back to Moffett!

Face behind the voice

If you have booked to fly with us, there's a good chance that you spoke with Sam. Mainly because he's our current 'top producer' in terms of the number of people he's booked and taken care of! I accidentally left him off my initial post about all our team and was mortified to discover that I did so. Hence this post to apologize to him and also to recognize the extra sterling work that he does. Thanks Sam! When he's not working with us, Sam takes care of the top passengers at United. Thanks to one of Sam's friends for the picture.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cutting the apron strings...

Jim D, our director of flight operations, has over 9000 hours in airships, flying all over the world. Since November he's been fitting in getting signed off on the Zeppelin NT along with all his other duties! Chief Engineer, Matthew, just sent me this picture. I see a Zeppelin in the background, but Katharine and Fritz are on the ground, along with Zeppelin Crew Chief Chris. Guess this means Jim is on his first solo! Congrats Jim, from all of your Airship Ventures family, and all those that follow our journey with us.

Pit Stop!

On long days of flying, we schedule a refuel just over halfway through the day. While Eureka can exchange passengers without the mast, for safety at refueling, she is masted. At Long Beach we are operating with the mast truck fixed in place, so rather than the truck driving to the airship - as happens everywhere else we operate - the pilot has to land and then drive the airship across the ground to the mast!!

In this sequence of photos you can see the unusual event of Carole from Guest Services lending a hand to hold the nose line while Matt (our trainee crew chief) guides the pilot to bring the ship close enough to attach the winch line. The airship is then winched onto the mast with a crewman using the mast head remote control.

Zeppelin crew chief Chris keeps a watchful eye!

Coming in to land

A nice photo (thanks Jim!) of the ground crew and guest services team waiting for Eureka to touch down (click on it to enlarge for the detail). Note the crew holding the passenger stairs, ready to move in as soon as Eureka lands for the exchange. The next passengers are lined up behind Carole in the yellow vest and two of them will get on, before two existing passengers get off. A crewman will help with safeguarding the disembarking passengers until they can be put onto the passenger van for driving off the airfield. The team will go through this procedure for all ten flights today.

LA Proclaims May 24 "Airship Day"


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who oversee one of the most populous regions of the U.S., issued a proclamation declaring May 24th as AIRSHIP DAY IN THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES. This proclamation honors the magnificent return of a Zeppelin airship to LA after a near 80-year hiatus. The last Zeppelin to have visited LA being the Graf Zeppelin, back in August of 1929 during it's "Weltfahrt" round the world trip. Supervisor Donald Knabe, whose District encompasses Long Beach and environs, made the presentation to Airship Ventures in an impromptu ceremony at the Eureka passenger terminal.

Friend of AV David Knight petitioned the Board of Supervisors to make the proclamation based on the airship's uniqueness, the historic significance of the LA area visit, and as an acknowledgement of Airship Ventures special accomplishments in bringing a Zeppelin to the United States, and now Los Angeles County (Knight is depicted in the photograph holding the scroll memorializing the proclamation).

Behind the scenes again

Elaine, Julie and Reese are busy in the call center this morning. Along with Sam, Marley, Janice and Zak - as well as some additional help from our administrative manager, Meghan, director of sales, Joanne, and backup from CFO Pat and IT manager Brian - these guys have been working to field all the telephone calls, voice mails and emails over the past week. Way to go guys! It's super hard work to be talking solidly for hours and after a while, it becomes hard to remember what you've already told the person you are speaking to!

We love talking to everyone though. All our potential passengers have a story - the anniversary they want to celebrate, the birthday, the fact that this has been on their 'to do' list for years and they're excited to fly..... It means that every conversation is a pleasure (and long!) even before we get to the booking process! We still have over a hundred inquiries backlogged that we're working through as quickly as we can - while the phone keeps on ringing - so if you're wondering why we haven't called you back yet, it's because we didn't quite anticipate how much Los Angeles would fall in love with us! We're so excited to be going back in July.

Behind the scenes

While the airship and operations team are down in Long Beach, the supporting cast back at Moffett Field is also working crazy hours to keep up with all the phone calls and emails. We have opened up the July 4 weekend (July 2-7) and that is filling up fast. We're excited about firework flights!

The guest services team use a helpdesk software to enable them to keep track of all the requests, inquiries and calls. As it is web based, it allows me to go in and help out - which I did for many hours yesterday. I've added a couple of screen grabs from emails. The first is subtle, but amusing. A couple wishing to book answered our question "date", not with the date they wished to fly but with a simple 'yes'. Most of the people who fly with us are doing so for a special occasion!

The second is a grab from an email from a passenger who flew in Long Beach while on vacation from Nashville, TN. As she resorted to 'shouting' (using caps) then we think she had a good time and it looks like she's set to become a frequent flier. Cool.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Day in the Life of Eureka

videoMatthew set up his laptop to catch this time-lapse of the ship on the field at Long Beach. Notice Eureka waiting for the marine layer of fog to pull back and then up she goes. Halfway through the day there's a refueling stop and she continues right past sunset, landing at night. I personally think watching her do her short touch and go's to take on passengers is amazing.

Hollywood

Hot off the press -- Chris just landed and turned in his camera and video to David.

Chase Plane


Chris is heading out with a friend of his to shoot some video of the ship on the 2 hour Hollywood flight that just departed.

Good Morning Long Beach

Shadow of the Zeppelin by the arena.

Long Beach has been fantastic. We're sold out and already planning a
return trip for 4th of July weekend.

A Star is Born!

'Eureka' went to Hollywood last night.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cover Girl

Eureka is the new star of Los Angeles - more on that soon. In the meantime, back in San Francisco, she's taking a lead role in an amazing fashion shoot done in April for 7x7 magazine. Talented photographer Eric Almaz spent a day with Eureka and model Lucie, and the result is gorgeous! Enjoy the link to the slide show!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Déjà vu!

Salad from 27,000ft.

Ok to go?

Safe on the mast after the press and VIP flights this morning. Next
flight is at 3pm. I have to return to Moffett today although I wish I
was staying with the ship and our great team. Brilliant job everyone!!

Ground Support

Airship trucks and TV trucks and both crews wait for the landing

Seeing us in Long Beach

We're getting requests to come and see us. The best place to view take offs and landing is Da Vincis, a restaurant on the field with big balconies!

Sea Launch

This amazing platform does rocket launches on the equator out at sea - a more efficient location.

Empty Hangar Syndrome

With the Zeppelin in LA for Memorial Day weekend, we're missing her (and the away team) back here at Moffett Field. Looks like she's making quite a splash, though... here's a warm radio welcome from LA!

Live TV

We just did live from Eureka with KTLA. Accompanied by their
helicopter. We decided to show off to the helo by hovering. I think
they were impressed!

Happy Birthday Eureka

May 21 2008 was her maiden flight!

Newspaper Writing Contest


The "Science Dude" over at the OC Register (a newspaper in Orange County, California) ran a writing contest this week and has just announced the winner.

The contest was to come up with a 500 word short story, starting with the sentence below:


"Eureka rose out of a thick cloud bank over Laguna Beach. British pilot Katherine turned to her German mentor, Fritz, and said, ..."


The winner definitely played up the British and German heritage of Katherine and Frtiz.

If you have your own thoughts on a good ending, just comment on this blog post.

Transit Flight track

Here is the map created by a tracker on the airship of our transit flight yesterday. As you can see from our posts, it is an incredible experience to fly with the airship in this way. Seats are still available for the return trip!

Hi there!

Dug and Tamara await our guests this morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009