Flying in a Zeppelin
Farmers Airship (Airship Ventures) Zeppelin NT N07 Eureka (registered N704LZ, c/n 04), based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, is one of only two Zeppelin dirigibles operating in the world today (the other is based in Germany in Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance, the home of Zeppelin).
Filled with non-flammable helium, Eureka is a dirigible, not a blimp. A dirigible has an internal rigid frame covered with a shell and filled with lifting gas. It has engines mounted on the sides of the hull, away from the gondola. A blimp does not have an internal frame, maintains its shape solely from gas pressure, and has its engines mounted on the gondola.
Having an actual Zeppelin (the same company that made the infamous Hindenburg) operating near me is exciting. Of course I want to add that to my list of interesting and rare aircraft flown. However, price is high. The tour I want to take is a one-hour flight over San Francisco (flown out of Oakland) at $495 plus tax. Nevertheless, I am on their email list for last minute specials. Since joining the mailing list in the past two years or so, nothing ever lined up for me between available dates, available departure times, departing cities, and good weather forecast. Everything finally lined up when I received their special offer for the last weekend in October. It was Eureka’s first weekend back to the San Francisco Bay Area after making a six-month tour around the country. After confirming a good weather forecast, I quickly grabbed the last departure from Oakland at 2:25 pm on Saturday at the special price of $380 (including tax).
My flight departed from Oakland’s North Field, paralleling I-880 and the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. We then turned north, following the piers along the Embarcadero, went around Alcatraz towards the Golden Gate, and then turned north again towards Sausalito. We then followed around Angel Island before turning south back towards the Bay Bridge toll plaza, back along side I-880 returning to North Field. Wheels up to wheels down lasted almost exactly one hour (59 minutes to be exact).
Here is my flight track plot from Oakland’s noise tracker. N704LZ is in yellow, so it’s a bit hard to see.
My flight was full at 12 passengers (three couples, me, another solo flier, and four Brazilian TV show personalities and photographer). Captain Ben Travis was the pilot and Anthony was the flight attendant.
Without further ado, here are the photos and video from my flight. Being able to see the Zeppelin arrive and depart before and after my flight really added to the experience. How often do you get to go on an aircraft and yet still see it move from the outside right next to it?