Zeppelin Startup Struggles As Economy Sinks

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The folks who launched the first tour-by-zeppelin business in the U.S. couldn't have had much worse luck with timing -- Airship Ventures launched last October, after two years of planning, just in time for the depths of economic doldrums. With seats selling for $500 each for an hour flight, business has been slow. Toss in the rain and wind of winter in the San Francisco Bay area, and it's even tougher. But Brian Hall, who runs the company with wife Alex, is not discouraged. "It comes with its stresses, there's no big pot of cash, and we're working seven days a week," he told CNN recently. "But if you can ride this out, you can last through anything." He added that he hopes to find sponsors who will pay to paint their logos on the zeppelin, and he may add winery tour weekends, or move to sunny southern California for the winters. The CNN/Money reporter who took a demo flight found the business plan dubious but the view mesmerizing: "We fly over the Golden Gate Bridge just as the sun dips below the horizon. A massive container ship has run aground on the rocks just west of the bridge, and we watch in awe as a Coast Guard boat tows it out to the Pacific," he wrote. "Then we turn and drift back over the Bay as the city lights up and the bright sliver of a new moon rises above it." But will the project prove to be economically viable? CNN's story leaves that question up in the air, for now.