A flight in a blimp is an enticing prospect -- a smooth, quiet, slow ride that offers an unmatched view of the landscape and a memorable experience that can’t be replicated. But options for such an adventure are very limited. MetLife does not permit rides in its blimps, and Goodyear only offers rides in its three blimps to auction winners, members of the press and local dignitaries. California-based Airship Ventures (airshipventures.com), the owner and operator of a 246-foot zeppelin called Eureka, is the only commercial airship operator in North America. A zeppelin isn’t technically a blimp, but a flightseeing tour on Eureka is the closest thing to a blimp ride available to the general public.
Choose from the various locations for flightseeing tours offered by Airship Ventures. Options include one- and two-hour tours over the San Francisco Bay area, which depart from Moffett Field in Silicon Valley; 45-minute to two-hour tours over Los Angeles, which depart from Long Beach; and 45-minute to two-hour tours from San Diego. Visit airshipventures.com or call the company at 650-969-8100 for the full schedule.
Book your chosen flight through the website or over the phone. Pay the fee, plus taxes and a nonrefundable booking fee using a credit or debit card. Notify the Airship Ventures representative if you are booking the trip for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary. You should also let the representative know if any members of your party weigh fewer than 100 pounds or more than 300 pounds. This information helps the crew calculate various flight parameters.
Read and retain the confirmation letter, receipt, and terms and conditions that you receive after booking your tour. Sign the contract, and remember to take the documents with you on the day of your flight.
Call the Guest Services Center one day before your flight to confirm your scheduled departure. Flights are occasionally canceled due to weather conditions. If this is the case, Airship Ventures will coordinate with you to reschedule your flight.
Wear comfortable shoes and layered clothing that is appropriate for slightly cooler weather than on the ground. If it’s cold, the airship will be heated. Leave any baggage other than your personal items behind.
Arrive at the appropriate terminal at least one hour before your scheduled departure time. Present your photo ID, signed contract and confirmation letter at the Guest Services Center to receive a boarding pass.
Wait for your flight in the passenger terminal, and enjoy the photo displays and complimentary light refreshments. A member of the flight crew will provide a briefing and some trivia prior to your departure.
Board the Eureka with the crew and other passengers -- the Eureka accommodates as many as 12 passengers per flight. Take a seat, secure your seat belt and turn off your cell phone.
Have your camera and binoculars ready to take in views of the surroundings through 360-degree panoramic windows while the airship quietly and smoothly ascends to 1,200 feet.
When the seat belt light goes off, you may stand and explore the gondola or remain seated if you wish. You are welcome to stick your head out one of two open windows for uninterrupted views and an exciting thrill.
Return to your seat and secure your seat belt before the airship’s descent at the end of your tour.
If two-hour flightseeing tours are not long enough for you, Airship Ventures also offers California Airship Cruises, day-long tours available from $1,500 per person. The tour lasts eight to 10 hours and takes you all over California. For custom tours or private charters, call or email Airship Ventures or submit the contact form on the company's website.
Outside California, the only other commercial airship tour operators are Zeppelin NT (zeppelinflug.de) in Germany and Skyship Cruise Switzerland (skycruis.ch).
To fly on Eureka, passengers must be over the age of 3. Airship Ventures advises that you also must be able to walk across the airfield to the airship, stand for up to 5 minutes before boarding and climb up and down stairs independently.