The world’s largest airship is visiting the UK for a short period this summer, offering sightseeing flights over London. Sponsored by Stella Artois, the blimp is the creation of Friedrichshafen-based Zeppelin NT.

The company was founded in 1993 by the Zeppelin Foundation to look at the commercial possibilities of building and operating airships. , chief operating operator says: “We built the prototype in 1997 and it took four years to certify. The real challenge was that the type had been out of production for 70 years.”

To date the company has flown 75,000 passengers at a rate of 11-12,000 annually. Flights are predominantly sightseeing trips over Germany’s Lake Constance.

Earlier this year Zeppelin NT took the airship on its longest flight from Bonn to London. The company’s pilots operate both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and have earned a type rating for the blimp. The crew need to have 1,000 hours plus the special rating, which they take in Friedrichshafen over two or three months.

 Zepplin NT Michael Schieschke

At present there are four full time and three freelance pilots on the books, with a further two in training.

There are three airships in service, one in Friedrichshafen and another in Japan. The third, the “Star over London,” is currently operating in the British capital and is due to go to San Francisco later this year by ship.

Schieschke says: “We could not get shipping until September, so we decided to offer trips in London to test its commercial viability there.”

Source: Flight International