The world's largest zeppelin made a stop in Oklahoma City on Monday.
The Farmers Airship, also known as the Eureka, travels at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and is capable of speeds up to 75 mph, but typically travels at 35 to 40 mph.
Unlike hydrogen-filled airships of the past, this zeppelin is filled with helium, a nonflammable, lighter-than-air gas. What separates a blimp from a zeppelin is the rigid frame inside the ship, which means that it holds most of its shape even when emptied of gas and the engines are mounted on the side and the rear of the ship, rather than the cabin.
“We like to say, ‘We don't fly. We float,'” said David Finney, guest services supervisor for Airship Ventures, the California company that owns the airship.
“The airship itself is a 246-foot long, 14,000-pound windsock,” Finney said.
“She works on the same principles of buoyancy as boats. Instead of floating on water, she floats on air,” he said.
This is the most extensive zeppelin tour in U.S. history and the first zeppelin tour across the country in more than 80 years, Finney said. The Farmers Airship has traveled from California to the east coast over the past six months, and is slowly making its journey homeward. The tour is expected to conclude in about three weeks.
When not traveling the country, the airship is used for a variety of purposes, including tours, sporting event coverage and military and scientific missions. Since the airship can hover like a helicopter and is very quiet, its reconnaissance abilities are unparalleled by other aircraft.
Recently, it's been used to research whales over waters on the West Coast.
“We could fly at 500 feet over the ocean, and the whales don't even know we're there,” Finney said.
Because of the position of the propellers, the airship can rotate 360 degrees and climb in altitude with very little forward motion. It can stay in the air up to 24 hours, compared to the three- or four-hour flights of helicopters.
The cost of the zeppelin itself is $16 million, but “that doesn't include the shipping and handling,” Finney said.
The airship was manufactured by a German company. Getting it to the states and certified by flight authorities pushed the price tag up to about $30 million, he said.
A one-hour tour in one of its 12 passenger seats is $495.