Airship Ventures Grounded

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Mountain View, Calif.-based Airship Ventures has grounded its zeppelin and will most likely dismantle it and send it back to Germany where it was built. Since 2007 the company, based at historic airship base Moffett Field, has offered trips, rides, promotions and anything else it could think of to keep the aircraft, named Eureka, afloat but it always lacked the one thing that would guarantee survival, particularly in turbulent economic times: consistent corporate sponsorship. "I've looked at the numbers, and for the price of a one-minute Super Bowl ad, a Fortune 500 company could sponsor the airship for a year," CEO Brian Hall told the San Jose Mercury News He pegged the cost at $5 million to $6 million. "You'd think that would be a slam dunk, right?"

Hall said unless such as a sponsor comes forward in the next few weeks, the zeppelin shutdown will be permanent. That closure would sink the jobs of 35 employees and end a unique period of U.S. aviation. Eureka was the first airship to carry paying passengers since the lighter-than-air heyday of the 1930s and Hall said he thinks the local community will notice its absence. "I think there's a huge affinity [for Eureka]," Hall said. "It's like a friend. I think people will miss it when it's gone."

AVweb's Mary Grady flew Eureka in 2009 and prepared this video.