AKRON, Ohio -- Looking down at his landing pad several miles ahead and a thousand feet below, James Kosmos can't tell which direction the windsock is pointing, so he can't tell which way the wind is blowing.
But no matter: 14 people have arranged themselves in a horseshoe pattern on the landing pad, expressly to let him know which way he should come in.
Kosmos is a Goodyear blimp pilot, and I'm sitting right next to him in the cockpit of the Spirit of Goodyear, one of the tire company's three airships. We're just about … Read more
AKRON, Ohio -- To Goodyear, a blimp is a blimp, even if it's not a blimp.
For decades, the tire giant has been flying its signature airships around the United States, mostly over sporting events, and has become one of the most recognizable icons in the world.
But Goodyear's current fleet of three blimps -- based out of Akron, Pompano Beach, Fla., and Carson, Calif. -- is aging, and the company announced in 2011 that it had decided to replace the airships with zeppelins, which are longer, faster, quieter, and more maneuverable than blimps.
The state-of-the-art airships were developed by Friedrichshafen, Germany's Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT), a company with a very long and storied past. For starters, it built the Hindenburg, though it has since substituted non-flammable helium for the hydrogen that exploded in that ship's very famous 1937 crash. … Read more
Every now and then, I like to report on the best new discs that have come my way. Let's get started!
Amy Winehouse: "At the BBC" (CD/DVD) Fourteen stunning performances from 2004 to 2009 showcase aspects of her talent that the studio recordings gloss over. The DVD, "The Day She Came to Dingle," is a documentary featuring Winehouse at the height of her powers in December 2006 in a tiny church in Ireland. She's backed up with just guitar and bass, so her voice, in all its glory, is upfront and clear. Awesome!… Read more
This is a follow-up to last week's "Before you buy a sound bar speaker, read this" post, but this time I'm setting my sights on expensive, $400-plus iPod and Bluetooth speaker "docks." They have built-in limitations common to all single-speaker systems. They might have two sets of speaker drivers housed in a single cabinet, but when the drivers are just a few inches apart, "stereo" sounds more or less like mono. In the quest to make these speakers as sleek and lightweight as possible, bass and dynamic range capabilities are limited, compared … Read more
This might be a tough question for a lot of people: defining what good sound is, and separating sound from music isn't easy. It might be impossible to distill it to just one album or song. We tend to like the sound of music we like, and conflate good sound with good music. That's understandable, but when the sound jumps out and draws your attention, take, for example, the sound of Jimi Hendrix's feedback. It was Hendrix's distortion, not his songs, that forever changed the sound of electric guitars.
Paul McCartney said it was the sound … Read more
OAKLAND -- Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster, and the end of the golden era of zeppelin passenger travel.
But anyone who lives in or around the San Francisco Bay Area is no doubt aware that these days, zeppelin travel is alive and well. That's thanks to Airship Ventures, a company run out of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., which operates one of the world's three airships, all of which were build by Zeppelin NT, a company located in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
Today, during an event hosted by the cloud storage … Read more
In Tom Clancy's sensationalist novel "Debt of Honor," a disgruntled pilot decides to avenge his lost honor by crashing a fuel-laden 747 directly into the U.S. Capitol, causing the giant building to explode and collapse. The scope of that fictional disaster was hard to fathom prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
But even before 9/11, anyone who had been in Lakehurst, N.J., on May 6, 1937, would have had a pretty good sense of just how big an explosion Clancy had in mind. Because that day, the Hindenburg, a German zeppelin … Read more
If you've driven through Mountain View, Calif., on Highway 101 recently, you've no doubt seen one of the most famous buildings in Silicon Valley going through some hard times.
The building is Hangar One at the NASA Ames Research Center, a giant structure that once housed America's great zeppelins, but which today is going through a long and expensive decontamination process.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Hangar One needs about $33 million worth of work done to strip it of PCB-laden paneling. Now a private company controlled by Google's founders--H211--has apparently offered 100 percent of the funding necessary … Read more
FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany--The thunder and lightning outside are fierce, so there are no flights today. That's disappointing for anyone who had been scheduled to fly, but for me it's a blessing: I get to see Europe's only Zeppelin NT in its home hangar.
As part of Road Trip 2011 I'd come to this Germany city on Lake Constance to visit the Zeppelin Museum, but as a bonus, I was now headed out for a meeting with Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT), the only company in the world that makes the internal-structure airships. And with buckets of water coming down … Read more