In a world where many people have come to view flying as an ordeal to be endured, there are still lots of us for whom the act of leaving terra firma behind remains an adventure to be savored. If you’re one of us, you owe it to yourself to book a seat on the first zeppelin to take to the skies above the U.S. in more than 70 years.
The company responsible for the zeppelin’s return to America, Airship Ventures, offers one- and two-hour flight-seeing tours around San Francisco Bay in the 246-foot helium-filled Eureka, as well as occasional cross-country flights as they reposition the zeppelin for tours in southern California or Monterey (if you have your private pilot’s license you can even take a turn at the controls). Between the zeppelin’s gentle flight characteristics—three 200-horsepower engines in rotating nacelles allow pilots to make this 747-sized airship hover, climb, and descend like a helicopter—and its huge panoramic windows, there simply isn’t a better platform for airborne rubbernecking out there.
Then, of course, there’s the sheer rarity of the experience. The Eureka is the largest airship in existence and one of only three zeppelins operating anywhere in the world, facts that should earn you some bragging rights back home.
Ultimately though, all that grown-up appeal vanishes the moment you climb aboard. From aerial views of Alcatraz and the city’s dramatic skyline to an amazing Golden Gate fly-by, even serious “been there, flown in that” aviation geeks (umm, like me for instance) are likely to find themselves with their noses pressed up against the glass like wide-eyed 10-year-olds.
In the end, it’s this sense of wonder that makes these zeppelin flights such an extraordinary experience. Even for all those poor jaded folks who insist they don’t like flying.
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