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If you happened to be near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, you may have spotted a white object flying across the clear blue skies - kind of like a Goodyear blimp with small school bus attached to it - Say hello to the Zeppelin, a giant floating airship that was used for transporting people and weapons in World War One, in the 1930's. It is now being resurrected for tourism.
If you missed the sighting, there will be plenty more, especially if you live in the Bay area, for the giant airship was arriving at its new home - Moffett field, a former naval station in Northern California.
Owned by a company called Airship Ventures, the Zeppelin will be used for flightseeing tours of the Napa and Sonoma wine country, Big Sur, San Francisco and other parts of the Bay area. A one-hour leisurely ride aboard the 246 ft Zeppelin that seats 12 people, is expected to cost $495 USD per person.
The original Zeppelin, named after its inventor Count Ferdinand Graf Von Zeppelin, was an icon in aviation in the 1930's. Built with a rigid aluminum frame, that was covered with cloth and powered with seventeen hydrogen cells and two combustion engines, it was the first commercial airline to serve scheduled flights before World War 1. Then in 1937, the inflammable hydrogen in the airship caused it to blow-up, killing all the passengers aboard. After that, the airship lost its popularity and soon after, production and use ceased completely.
It was not until 2001, when a German Company out of Hamburg , resurrected a new and improved Zeppelin, this time entirely for short sight-seeing tours. The Zeppelin NT (new technology) has a rigid aluminum and carbon fiber frame, which is covered with multi-layer laminate materials. It is powered by two lateral engines and one rear engine, as well as, non-flammable helium, making it much safer than the original one.
Two years ago, Brian Hall, the founder of Airship Ventures, fell in love with the Zeppelin after taking a tour in Germany, and decided that Americans would love it as much as he did. In fact he is so convinced, that he has two more Zeppelin's on order, which he intends to use to offer tours from the East Coast, probably New York and Florida , starting 2010. To read more about the Zeppelin and how it works or to book a tour, check out the company's website at http://www.airshipventures.com/theship.php.
Sources: Chicagotribune.com, SFGate.com