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German Firm Sends Its Zeppelin Dream Aloft

THE WORLD

August 16, 2001|From Associated Press

BERLIN — A German company started regular zeppelin commercial flights Wednesday for the first time since the Hindenburg disaster ended dirigible travel more than six decades ago.

In a one-hour trip, the Zeppelin NT Bodensee, which can carry 19 passengers, flew over Lake Constance on the Swiss border from the southern German town of Friedrichshafen on the lake.

Unlike the Hindenburg, which was filled with dangerous hydrogen, the new model uses nonflammable helium.

The company, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, said it was planning up to 30 flights a week in the Bodensee, named in German for Lake Constance, where dirigible travel was launched a century ago.

The firm received final approval Tuesday from air authorities to start commercial flights in the 246-foot-long airships. Prices for the one-hour cruise start at $275. The company says it already has 3,500 bookings for this year and 500 for next year.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin launched the first airship over Lake Constance in 1900. But the zeppelin era ended in 1937 when the Hindenburg exploded as it was landing at Lakehurst, N.J., after an Atlantic crossing, killing 35 of the 96 people on board.

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