Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik has begun flight testing a prototype of its Zeppelin NT new-technology rigid airship.

The craft's 45min maiden flight took place on 18 September, with US test pilot Scott Dannecker at the controls. The prototype was flown from the Friedrichshafen exhibition grounds, where it was assembled, landing at its new base at Friedrichshafen Airport.

Zeppelin has spent some DM40 million ($22.7 million) developing the helium-filled airship, and has already received five firm orders. The first is from recently formed Swiss company Skyship Cruise, with the remaining orders coming from three customers in Germany.

Construction of the first operational airship is to begin in January.

The 12-seat Zeppelin NT is being offered with a price tag of some DM12.5 million, and is being promoted for tourism and aerial-observation use. Certification is expected in about a year.

Source: Flight International