Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We like Zeppelins!

On a list of human-designed things that I think look pretty cool, Zeppelins would rank near the top.

Starting next month, the world's largest Zeppelin will be flying over my house on a regular basis.

I think that's wicked cool.

Airship Ventures, a Silicon Valley startup, begins charter flights with its newly acquired, 246-foot-long Zeppelin later this week. Although the craft is headquartered at Moffett Field north of San Jose, where three mammoth Zeppelin hangars have stood empty since World War II, Airship Ventures will fly regular tours out of our very own Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport beginning next month.

Cruising the Wine Country skies in a humongous German-built gasbag (filled with non-flammable helium, for the comfort of those who've seen that Hindenburg video on YouTube) isn't a cheap date. A one-hour ride will set you back $525 — that's per person, not for the entire 12-passenger vessel — while a two-hour tour will cost $975 a head. (I guess they're not offering three-hour tours, lest the ship get stranded on an uncharted desert island.)

If you really want to party like a rock star, you and eleven of your closest personal friends can pony up $6,100 and have the joint all to yourselves for an hour. Assuming you can get your business handled in 60 minutes, you and your significant other could probably join the 1,350 Feet High Club for the same amount, if that was copacetic with the captain. But you'd probably want to ask permission first. (The Zeppelin's captain, it's interesting to note, is Katharine Board, the world's only female Zeppelin pilot. We're all about the gender equality out here by the Bay.)

In addition to the Wine Country spectacular, tours will be available out of Airship Ventures' Moffett Field home, as well as Oakland International Airport. If you're hankering to shell out beaucoup bucks for an bird's-eye view of Silicon Valley (yawn) or Oakland (ugh), knock yourself out.

As for me and my excruciatingly acrophobic self, I'll be content simply to view the giant inflatable spud from ground level, and wave to the tourists as they pass overhead.

In case anyone's confused, the difference between a Zeppelin and a blimp — aside from the cachet of the imposing Zeppelin name, as opposed to that prosaic and flaccid-sounding other word — is structural. A Zeppelin has an interior skeleton made of lightweight metal; a blimp is just a big balloon.

Incidentally, I wasn't kidding earlier about my affection for Zeppelins. One of my most prized pieces of comic art is a double-sheet spread featuring a Zeppelin. It's pages 6 and 7 from Doc Savage, The Man of Bronze: The Monarch of Armageddon #1, with pencils by Darryl Banks and inks by Robert Lewis. You can see the two halves of the piece here and here. (Sorry I don't have a combined scan to show you, but my Photoshop skills suck. Use your imagination.) This beauty hangs on permanent display in our living room, right over the television. It's often more appealing than whatever's on the tube.

Spongmonkeys like Zeppelins, too. But not as much as the moon.

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2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger paper napkin offered these pearls of wisdom...

I'm not a huge fan of graphic art, but that is really cool!

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Lee offered these pearls of wisdom...

Oh wow - I hope you get pictures - lots of pictures whilst it goes overhead.

I love the imagery of steampunk with Zeppelins ruling the airways.

4:18 PM  

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