Julie Walker

Flight of a lifetime

November 6, 2008 by Julie Summers Walker, Managing Editor

I flew in a Zeppelin! While Tom Haines will tell you the whole story of Airship Ventures in an online story and through video shot from the cockpit of the first American Zeppelin to fly commercial passengers in 70 years, I want to share the nonpilot version of the story. Yes, even after 10 years as an editor on AOPA Pilot staff, I still have 65 hours of flight training but no solo. I have gotten to do some amazing things in the years that I have been on staff. Oh, fly in a seaplane to Friday Harbor, Washington, fly with Haines in his Bonanza to see my son in Florida, and fly to Cape Cod, Oshkosh, and Sun ‘n Fun–the perfect illustration of how great and useful general aviation flying is. But this experience today, well, it may top them all.

I joined Haines and photographer Chris Rose on their way to do the story on Airship Ventures yet when we arrived, I was asked if I’d like to fly too. I panicked. But Haines looked at me and said, “Julie, this is a flight of a lifetime.” So I listened to the safety instructions, followed as we went two-by-two to the airship (man, is it big…gianormous!), and buckled in. Haines warned that the takeoff might be steep as in a blimp, which he has flown, but the Zeppelin felt like it simply floated off the ground. The windows are so large you have the sensation of being in a giant bubble. That was unnerving to me as I like a wall space or some aluminum between me and the sky, but the view just sucked me in…we flew along Highway 101 up to San Francisco, around the bay, and over the Golden Gate Bridge. We could unbuckle and walk around the cabin but it took me until the North Beach of San Francisco before I got up. All the time Chris Rose had the windows open (yes, open) taking photographs.

The Zeppelin cruises at 35 mph just 1,200 feet agl. With the windows open, you could hear the sound of sirens from the highway below. It was a two-hour tour and over way too soon. See Tom’s video and look at Chris’ photos. I think you’ll agree this was a flight of a lifetime.


One Response to “Flight of a lifetime”

  1. Mike Sundstrom Says:

    I had the opportunity to fly in the GoodYear blimp a while back. It was an opportunity of a life time alright! Flew out of Arlington TX for a hour flight. It sure is a different world but a great way to fly.

    Mike AOPA #00769000

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