Airship flies over Tri-Cities

Fruitport resident Kirt Walbrink didn't get to ride in the 246-foot airship that floated over Muskegon and the Tri-Cities area on Wednesday, but the Farmers Insurance agent said he and his family still had fun taking part in the on-ground festivities. "My girls were really excited about that,' Walbrink said of the airship's take-offs and landings near a gate close to Ross Park in Norton Shores. "We watched it fly by about 300 feet away and 100 feet in the air.'
Becky Vargo
Jun 30, 2011


The airship was in Muskegon as part of a Farmers Insurance fundraising drive for the March of Dimes called “Be a Hero for Babies.” Proceeds from the ticket sales were being donated to the March of Dimes, Walbrink said.

About 120 people took advantage of the opportunity to take a ride in the zeppelin when it visited the area.

“It flew about 10 flights,” Walbrink said. The airship landed at the Muskegon County Airport for the last time Wednesday around 9:30 p.m., he said.

“It is flying out this afternoon and heading for Chicago for two days,” Walbrink said.

To see more photos of the flyover, click here.

Walbrink said he spent a good part of the day at the airport after observing the airship fly over his house, east of Fruitport, on Wednesday morning.

“When it came in, in the morning, they had to top it off with helium, then schedule the rides which started around 2 p.m.,” he said.

The airship is a zeppelin named Eureka. It flew out over Lake Michigan, south to Grand Haven, circled around and headed back to Muskegon.

The zeppelin is owned and operated by Airship Ventures Inc. of Moffett Field, Calif. It is one of only two flying commercially in the world, and the only zeppelin in America.

The hull is constructed of multi-layer laminate and is filled with nonflammable helium. It does not require a runway for takeoff, but does use a mobile mast truck to secure it overnight or during fueling.

Two lateral engines and one rear engine provide flight control and propulsion with a maximum speed of 78 mph. The typical cruising speed is 35-40 mph.

The Eureka has a 14-passenger capacity — and, at 246 feet, is larger than a blimp, which is 192 feet. In comparison, a Boeing 747 jet is 232 feet.

Walbrink said the airship had originally been scheduled to fly out of Grand Rapids, but was diverted to Muskegon because of air traffic. It was previously in Detroit.



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