A group of eight 99's met up at Moffitt Field a couple of weeks ago for our long anticipated tour of Airship Ventures "Eureka". Gus Holweger, Community Ambassador, arranged the tour and received us at their headquarters in the historic buildings of NASA Research Park.
The Director of Flight Operations, Jim Dexter, joined us for a thoroughly informative talk about the history of airships as well as his long (27 years) and varied career in the field. Jim started with America's longest running commercial airship program, Goodyear, (which I have had the pleasure of being a passenger in and actually taking the controls). Jim has logged approximately 10,000 hours in airships while flying in exotic destinations including Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Turkey.
Jim then shuttled us around Moffett to the other side of the field to get a close up and personal view of the Zeppelin. Two by two we were escorted by Jim into the cabin which sits underneath the massive rigid structure. The panel has the latest in glass technology and Fly-by-Wire controls. What really makes this ship unique are the independent vectored thrust engines. Each engine can be rotated 120° and combined with variable pitch propellers to give the airship unmatched ability to stop, hover, land, and climb vertically. "Eureka" is one of three Zeppelins in existence in the world.