Looking for a way to avoid the tourist crowds in Paris? You might try looking up. Airship Paris is a new company offering tours of the French countryside around Paris by zeppelin.
Tickets range from 250 euro for a half-hour “first flight” tour of the castles around Vexin (including the Villette Castle from “The Da Vinci Code” movie), to 650 euro for a royal tour of Versailles with Paris in the background. Flights take off from the Pontoise airport about 25 miles from Paris. The 250-foot-long airship carries up to 12 passengers and cruises at an altitude equivalent to the Eiffel Tower.
After takeoff, you are free to take in the views from the panoramic windows, sitting or standing. Unlike a hot-air balloon or blimp, the zeppelin is wind-resistant and heavier than air, with a low level of vibration and noise (the company compares it to that of a dishwasher). Airship Paris is the first commercial airship service in the area in 30 years.
Read more and book tickets here.
On Tuesday, I wrote about Turtle Airships, a company that’s trying to produce a solar-powered amphibious “airship” capable of crossing the Atlantic. While we weren’t exactly flooded with responses over the post, we did get a few concerned comments from members of the Lighter-than-Air community. Yes, there is a whole community dedicated to blimps, zeppelins, and airships, and yes those are all different things (see, we’re learning so much here).
Apparently, there are some airship enthusiasts who aren’t quite convinced that the folks over at Turtle Airships have their heads on straight. Darrell Campbell, CEO and designer of Turtle Airships, would of course, beg to differ. The company’s slapdash website and offer of a free ride to anyone who ponies up $10 for an e-book doesn’t help their credibility, but poor marketing skills and a questionable product don’t necessarily make a company any less sincere.
Some skeptics say that the mechanics behind Campbell’s plan just don’t add up, while more vocal detractors think the whole thing is a ruse to swindle money out of the gullible. Only time will tell if they are right, so you may not want to buy that Transatlantic airship ticket just yet.
First, let’s just get this out of the way: it is not, I repeat not, a blimp. Whew! Okay. . . Turtle Airships (a Spanish company that seems to have some intense aversion to the word “blimp”) is working on an airship that will make the journey from NYC to Paris, powered predominantly by the sun.
The top half of the
blimp airship will be covered in solar panels that will store energy in batteries and use it to power four electric motors. The craft will also have a biodiesel engine as a back-up so the ship can fly in bad weather and at night. It will be able to take off vertically, land on ground or in water, and travel at around 40 miles per hour in ideal weather (making for a very long Transatlantic journey).
The airship is having a bit of difficulty getting off the ground at this point though, due to lack of funds. Turtle Airships is working on a prototype and hoping that as buzz for the project increases, so will the financing. Once the cash comes in, they say they’re ready for lift-off.
Until then, you can indulge your Goodyear fantasies with Airship Ventures, which offers Zeppelin flights from several California cities, ranging from $199 to $600 per person.
Do you remember reading about the Hindenburg disaster in history class? You know, that giant blimp that burst into flames in New Jersey in
1936 1937, killing all most of the passengers onboard? For the fledgling blimp tourism industry of the 1930’s, that was pretty much the end of the line.
However, according to recent news, the blimp is experiencing a resurgence as a trendy new vehicle for the upscale tourism market. Jean-Marie Massaud, a French designer and architect, has announced plans for a new 690-foot long dirigible with attached luxury hotel (obviously) called the “Manned Cloud.” According to recent reports several airlines including Air France and Emirates have expressed interest in funding the project. Believe it or not, Jean-Marie Massaud isn’t the first to propose such an idea – a tour company based in Germany has been taking passengers on blimp aerial tours for several years. Just imagine the views as you gently float among the clouds, gazing down at the spectactular scenery below…
So is the once-mighty dirigible industry poised for a comeback? Don’t book that non-refundable blimp ticket on Kayak just yet. Though traveling by blimp will surely be of interest to some (moneyed) travelers, it’s likely to remain a largely niche transportation mode for several reasons. Aside from the fact blimps top out at ground speeds around 100 MPH, they’re also quite susceptible to bad weather. Can you imagine being in a blimp during a thunderstorm? I hate turbulence on airplanes as it is. Not to mention these floating aircraft can only take on small numbers of passengers and need very large landing strips to touch down.
Oh well, so much for reopening that blimp dock on New York’s Empire State Building. But keep watching the skies – a blimp trip could very well be in your future.
Needless to say the whole passenger liner blimp
thing took a bit of a nosedive when the Hindenburg
exploded on a New Jersey airfield some 70 years ago. But call me crazy, I think that a blimp ride would be amazingly
cool. I know I’m not alone, so why hasn’t anyone produced another passenger blimp? Is it scientific? That hydrogen can
no longer be used and helium is not lifty enough to support lots of passengers? I’ll have to wiki that and see what’s
In the meantime, though, perhaps the idea has some potential after all. Check out the Aeroscraft, what some
folks are calling a kind of flying Queen Mary 2. The flying boat comes from the fertile frontal lobes of Igor
Pasternak, whose privately-funded California firm, Worldwide Aeros Corporation, says they are developing a prototype
and expects to have one completed by 2010.
One thing: this is not, so they say, a blimp. Not technically
anyway. The Aeroscraft heavier than air, even though it holds some 14 million cubic feet of helium. But all those cubic
feet lift just 2/3 of the ship’s weight. The rest, you see is lifted by several huge rear propellers and jets that
push the ship up or ease its descent. According to this piece on the…well, come on, I mean, let’s just call
it a blimp…the blimp will have a top speed of 174 mph and could traverse the continental U.S. in about 18 hours.
How cool is that? Could you imagine what an amazing trip that would be? I swear I wouldn’t sleep a wink. But even
if you wanted to sleep you could apparently do so in some luxury, as the ship will have luxury staterooms, restaurants,
even a casino.
File this under way cool.