On location with a TV crew at Pompano

One thing we’re planning for the site is a video compilation of Hollywood’s attempts at entertainment featuring LTA content. (Someday.)

A more ambitious project would be an examination of commercial television’s LTA related efforts, seemingly easy since most center around some way of blowing up the Hindenburg.  Until such time as we can whip that up, here is a 5 minute video by the producer taped during a documentary crew’s visit to Goodyear’s airship base at Pompano, Florida.

Last Navy Airship

The last airship purpose – designed for and delivered to the US Navy last century was the ZPG-3W, a 1.5 million cubic foot radar-picket ship.

The producer had visited the remains of the only remaining example of that model – in fact, the entire “Nan” series – at her resting place, D-M AFB’s “The Boneyard,” near the Pima Air Museum.

The NAA also scheduled a -3W car tour for a member’s reunion, and several men who flew on ZPG-3Ws (including BuNo -243)  visited their old aircraft.  The color photo shows Ross Wood, a ZPG-3W pilot and past NAA President. He is pointing out the name of Robert Keiser, the last skipper of Combat Air Crew  #102 to have is name stenciled on -243’s car forward. The B & W photo is of Bob Keiser himself using the retractable boarding ladder to ascend into the 3W’s forward section, back in the day.

The producer has prepared a 6-min. video tour of this, the largest blimp ever made.  You’ll also see Bob and his family aboard in the second deck mess, as we pop back and forth to her active duty days.  (Watch for that boarding ladder lying in the car’s interior today.)  Bob passed away in 2017. Unless steps are taken to stabilize its remains, this last Navy airship will eventually cease to exist.

you can read a ZPG-3W pilot’s memoir in:  The Airship Experience

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UK Trip complete

Still unpacking from our UK trip, we’ll try to get back online here to report on the many developments over the next few days.

On the way to visit the Cardington sheds and AIRLANDER, we noted a great deal more development around the town than our previous visits. The Shorts building (above) has been carefully restored to its 1917 glory (note historical marker) and  is used as office space. The marker notes its having been nationalized to become the Royal Airship Works during the “Empire of the Air” days. Shortstown, the community of homes built to house airship workers, has not only been restored and is occupied, but has actually grown – with great care taken that the new construction matches the style of the old.

Friends we’d made in aviation kindly took us under wing and we got to fly around, visit several museums, and land at WWII airfields, each with their own historical displays. Our pals from Grimsby kindly drove us to Hull and for a considerable search to find the R.38/ZR-2 memorial. Finally locating the monument, we found reading the names of the honored dead quite an emotional experience.

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AIRVENTURE 2017 Complete

Wincing on every bump we frequented the semi-tractor sides of rest stops for picnic lunches since it was difficult to turn our  rig in typical parking lots. The three overmights – in Troy, AL, Bytheville AK and Bloomington  IL – were based on finding hotels with large parking lots.

Setting up our dual tent and kitchen campsite took the first Oshkosh day until finally the Lake Michigan weather cleared enough for our longtime penpal Andy McKee to fly in with his Twister, having departed England about 10 days earlier. Andy and his #28 were none the worse for wear following his solo flight across the Atlantic via Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, he’d made the longest leg (540 nm) with reserve thanks to his added gas tank behind his seat. Saturday morning we assembled our #6 alongside, first twin Twister appearance in the US.

EAA honored us with a special parking spot. That’s us in the tiny yellow circle seen below as “Doc,” the second flying B-29, arrived. Total showplanes: 2,991 (up 5 percent over 2016): 1,107 homebuilt aircraft (second straight year over 1,100), 1,162 vintage airplanes (up 12 percent), 351 warbirds, 168 ultralights and light-sport aircraft, 79 seaplanes, 54 rotorcraft, 60 aerobatic aircraft, and 10 hot air balloons.

Both “Doc” and “Fifi” overflew us several times during the show.  Andy participated in the homebuilder’s review portion of the airshow, thrilling the crowd with a Spitfire-like profile pass as the B-29s warmed up on the runway. Of course there was a real Spit on display in the Warbirds area.

Lots of interest in the Twisters as we handed out zrsthemovie.com website cards to anyone passing by. Debbie and Andy were interviewed and photographed by EAA, Kitplanes and a UK magazine, Norwegians, and perhaps others, as we lost track.

Our illustrator John Mellburg took these photos of an identical summer ’42 paint job on what appeared to be an SBD. It’s actually a SNJ (or T-6) that was so well done it should obviously be considered for the movie.

Wed. morning we rolled over to the Homebuilder’s hangar and gave a talk about our build experience. A total of 1,050 Forums and Workshops sessions were attended by more than 75,000 people. Debbie volunteered to help teach composites and the producer gave his updated “Airships: Past, Present & Future” presentation Friday morning in Forum 1.

Hard to believe this was the US Navy Blue Angel’s first Airventure appearance.  Is Twister longing to take to the sky here?

This photo from the EAA website says it all: last day, pilot and producer too pooped to do anything more than just watch the afternoon show.  Approximately 590,000 people attended AirVenture 2017, an increase of five percent over 2016.

Packed up and heading home, worked off a bucket list item – a stop in Metropolis, Illinois, to visit the Superman Museum.  Now re-assembled and working off some minor issues after the trip, we’re ready to resume flight testing.

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Oshkosh or Bust!

Look for us at Airventure:

Twister Presentation:  Homebuilder’s Builder’s Hangar, Wed. 10  am

Airships Past, Present & Future, Forum #1, Friday 10 am

(Trailer will be stored in Camp Sholler)

Twister Aloft!

On 7-7-17 circa 9am Twister N600ZF lifted off from Dunn Airpark, Titusville, Florida. Our test pilot took her up, around the pattern, made a nice landing and debriefed us.  James Simpson was there recording with his iPhone:


Needless to say the happiest day of the decade for us, and a great relief.

Wish we could sleep for about a week now, but much to do before shipping out for Oshkosh.

A most heartfelt thanks to all who helped and supported us through the five and a half years of build.

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Denver AITO complete

AIAA 23rd LTA Technology Conference

The 23rd LTA Technology Conference occupied two days of the week-long AIAA AITO at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, June 5-9, 2017. LTA shared the Savoy and Vail rooms with the Scientific Balloon and Decelerator Systems presentations.

The producer acted as session chair for 255-LTA-03, LTA Engineering & Design, which included the following paper/presentations whose reference numbers all begin with AIAA-2017- :

3992: Several Concerns of Advanced Airships for Thrust Vectoring Application on Dynamic Study, by X. Zhang, H.Liang, and X. Guo of Beihang Univ. Beijing. The very math-intensive study was presented by Xiayang Zhang, who’d traveled from China.

3993: Development of Flight Mode Algorithms for Tethered Airships, by S. Stevanovic; J.S. Santos; K. Kondak; L.C. Goes; and R.S. Pant. This graphic rich program was presented by Jonatas Santos, who’d arrived from Brazil.

3994: Design and Fabrication of a Winch for Aerostat, by  H. Shah; B. Katare; V. Rane; U. Chawda; B. Sonawane; R.S. Pant. The presentation was loaded with photos of the students’ hand built winch and a video of it pulling in a test concrete block.

3996: Design and Development of an Indoor Autonomous Airship, by M. Biju; R.S. Pant. Both this excellent paper and 3994 were presented By Nimesh Singhal, who’d come in from TUM Asia in Singapore.

3995: An Elevated Balloon-Kite Hybrid Platform for Surveillance, by C.R. Dusane; A.V. Wani; R.S. Pant; D. Chakraborty; B. Chakravarthy. This presentation, which   illustrated the team’s construction and test results, was given by Sushilkumar Kerimani, who had traveled from India. The hybrid, tethered craft went through several full scale design evolutions.

That afternoon the concurrent “Demand for Unmanned” sessions otherwise dominated by the majority HTA attendees turned attention to the “UAS Carrier Airship” panel discussion. Moderator (and LTA TC Vice-Chair) Ron Hochstetler of SAIC asked the producer to play Act Three of his DVD The Flying Carriers which gave the assembly a “reality check,” where the state of the flying carrier art had reached in 1935.

The large assembly then listened to a presentation by Michael O’Neal, Director, Modeling & Simulation of MARCORSYSCOM, who called for solutions to vexing, deadly battlefield resupply problems. Following was Professor Oleg A. Yakimenko of the USN Postgraduate School, who showed the extensive research conducted with UAVs by the school. The Q & A session followed.

Thursday’s 303 LTA-04 Session, Airship Development, was chaired by Charles Lambert, and included the following paper/presentations:

4133: ZRCV: The Giant That Almost Was, authored by and presented by the producer.

4134: Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) ‘Aircraft Carriers’ of Persistent, Cheap Micro-Weaponized UAV Swarms for Fleet BMD Overwatch, EW, and Wide-Area ASW/Surveillance, by  J. Bosma. This innovative plan of using micro-UAVs in large numbers from an airship base was given by Ron Hochstetler.

4135: Application of Large UAV Test Principles to LTA Platforms, by  M.L. McDaniel. Michael’s candid presentation brought experience of real-world UAV testing to would-be LTA UAV builders.

4136: Reconfigurable Cellular Composite Structures for Lighter than Air Vehicles by Grace M. Copplestone and K. Cheung. Grace, the only female presenter, left the audience aghast with her presentation of developments in their “digital cellular” structure research, with its profound implications for LTA hulls.

The scheduled Airship do Brasil oral presentation was to be the last of the session. “A case study as of Latin America’s newest LTA company by M.A. De Felippes.” Since the show’s creator was unable to attend due to a last minute conflict, the power point was e-mailed to Ed. who gave it a shot. Attendees were eager to see and hear what progress had been made by the company whose had just christened and rolled out their first ship. (See Cover Story.) Attendees left the conference with a renewed optimism that the best LTA has to offer is yet to come!

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Amazon’s Flying (Drone) Carrier!

Amazon.com’s proposal to carry UAVs for merchandise delivery was illustrated with this gag pasteup graphic.  Here perhaps while the Government drags its feet, free enterprise picks up. Hopefully they’d found inspiration in the Aviation Week mention of our AIAA LTA TC’s technical paper on the subject of a proposed UAV carrier.

It you’re not an AIAA member or don’t subscribe to AvWeek you can read for free our 2015  DARPA Proposal for a Modern Flying UAV Carrier

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