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.
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.
Monday morning seems like as good a time as any to discuss a disaster.
The Hindenburg was meant to be one of a fleet of “flying hotels,” noted for their luxury and speed. During its first year of commercial operation, the Hindenburg — at 804, feet, the largest aircraft ever built — transported 2798 passengers across 191,583 miles and completed 17 round-trips across the Atlantic Ocean. However, on May 6, 1937, the hydrogen-filled, duralumin-skinned balloon crashed and burned in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 13 passengers and 22 crew died — most of whom died from leaping from the burning ship. One member of the ground crew died also. Though there are many theories as to what made the dirigible explode, none have been confirmed.
Here is a short clip of Herbert Morrison’s on-the-scene account of the crash. Listen to his voice as he narrates the action on-site, his plaintive cry crescendoing with the words, “I can’t talk ladies and gentlemen…”