Photos & Story By Leslie Krouse
San Diego is such an amazing city, and to be able to find new ways to explore this wonder we live in, well, you can count me in. So when I received the press release stating that Airship Venture was bringing their Zeppelin ‘Eureka’ to San Diego, I didn’t hesitate to inquire about taking a ride. It triggered thoughts of the Goodyear Blimp flying high above our city. I would always contemplate on how spectacular the view must be from that vantage point. We’ve been given a brief glimpse during the games, but to actually be up there, and to have a first hand account of how spectacular it really is; there is just no comparison.
What differentiates the Zeppelin from a Blimp? The blimp gets its shape from helium, and the Zeppelin has a rigid frame supporting its hull, made of aluminum and carbon–fiber. The engines are attached high up on the frame rather than on the basket, which enables exceptional flight performance, and allows for a quiet and stable passenger experience. Eureka’s cabin holds 12 passengers and 2 crewmembers, and boasts luxury features like oversized windows (some open!), an on-board restroom with a view, and a rear loveseat complete with a panoramic, wrap-around window. The Eureka is the largest Zeppelin in the world, measuring at 246 feet, 15ft longer than a 747 airplane, and 50 ft. longer that the largest blimp. The maximum air speed for the Eureka is about 78 mph, but we were cruising closer to 35 mph, and at 1200 ft. above San Diego, this is one of the best ways to enjoy our city. The colossal aircraft is one of only three Zeppelins operating in the world, and is the only airship licensed for commercial passengers in the United States.
We started our adventure on the Airship Eureka, at Brown Field in Chula Vista. It was a partly cloudy day, with a bit of a wind. I was a little concerned with thoughts of a balloon in the breeze went through my mind. In the pre-flight safety briefing, (which is a lot like the airlines), we were all reassured that the pilot is very experienced, and she would not be taking off if the winds increased. After the safety check, and a wave of the metal detecting wand, we all climbed into the van that took us out to the docking point. We lined up 2 by 2, in Noah’s Arc fashion; then we were led onto the airship. Two passengers off, then two passengers on, this is done to keep the weight distributed properly. We buckled in, and then got ready for a ride that very few people have been fortunate enough to experience in their lifetime.
Pilot Kate Broad, the only female airship pilot in the world, and former San Diegan, greeted us and we were on our way. It only took a couple minutes before we were allowed to roam the ship. “This is amazing.” I heard again and again from the other passengers. I would have to say…“I agree”. To have the room, and ability to walk around a get a 360° view, this is definitely something I will never forget. We took off heading north/west towards the coast. The one-hour flight would take us past the Silver Strand to the Coronado Cays and Hotel Del, past the Coronado Bridge then onto downtown. This renewed perspective of our city has made a lasting impression on me. To see this side of SD, and how all the new buildings and remodels, Gaslamp District, Convention Center, and Pet Co Park have changed our skyline, it has genuinely made this “The Finest City” in America. There really is no place like home. This is definitely a must see.
Airship Ventures will be back in town Memorial Weekend on May 28th and 29th. What a great way to celebrate. San Diego tours range from $199. 00 to $950.00, for more information go to www.airshipventures.com
Fun Fact: While the Eureka is the largest currently functioning zeppelin, the airships from the golden age of zeppelins were much, much larger. The Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin were about 800 feet long, and the Macon, which was based at Moffat for a couple of years in the 1930s, was 785 feet long.