Some very wealthy people have mega yachts. Some have personal blood boys. Some have entire islands. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, however, appears to be the only billionaire building a fleet of airships, and the latest episode of Hello World brings you inside one.
On This Episode
Over the past few years, Brin has been quietly funding the construction of a new, very large airship in Silicon Valley. We take you behind the scenes for an exclusive look at said airship and try to explain why Brin would want to spend $250 million on the creation of such a machine in this day and age.
The arrival of a new airship provided the perfect excuse to examine the history of these wonderful creations and even to fly on one in Friedrichshafen, Germany, where airships still rule the skies.
Things You Will Learn
Speaking of Friedrichshafen — as one does — the city has an incredible and odd history tied to airships.
Airship pioneer Ferdinand von Zeppelin performed some of his earliest experimental flights on the shores of Lake Constance, which lies at Friedrichshafen’s edge. When Count Zeppelin died in 1917, he laid the groundwork to transfer his intellectual property to a foundation. That foundation has since become quite lucrative with the IP fueling aerospace and automotive empires. A large chunk of the money is funneled back to Friedrichshafen, which bestows its largesse on its citizens.
As a result, Friedrichshafen is an idyllic place to visit, with lakeside restaurants, walkable streets and beautiful scenery all around it.
Away from Friedrichshafen, back in the US, airships have a long and storied history, too. About 90 years ago, the US military funded the production of giant airships at a facility in Akron, Ohio. Some of these aircraft were flown to what is now NASA Ames in Silicon Valley where they were housed in giant hangars.
Brin’s company LTA Research has now taken over one of the hangars at NASA Ames and the giant Airdock in Ohio. LTA, for Lighter Than Air, is effectively repeating history, only with carbon fiber and titanium twists.
Things to Do After Watching the Episode
There are not many places that offer rides in airships to tourists, but if flying like a wizard is a dream, you can head to Friedrichshafen during certain parts of the year and float through the skies.
The rides cost $600 and last about an hour. It’s a pricey but unique experience. Flying in a zeppelin is smooth and slow and quiet. I recommend it.
While in Friedrichshafen, you can really let the airship lifestyle wash over you. There are airship sculptures. Airship-themed bars. Airship shops. And, of course, the Zeppelin Museum where you can walk through a recreation of the Hindenburg and learn all you could ever hope to learn about lighter-than-air craft.