A Tom Swift Weekend Cruise

A film about the Hindenburg kept me occupied for a couple of hours. It starred George C. Scott and told of intrigue in the skies which led to the disaster destined to become the cover art for the first Led Zepplin album. I spent most of my time ignoring the film and indulging in a bit of daydream engineering. I’ve always thought that dirigibles were a nifty way to travel and I still do. Especially now that we have such a wide array of ultra strong and ultra light materials to work with. It certainly wouldn’t be a terribly time efficient way to travel, but think of it in the same terms one might a few day cruise or scenic train excursion and it becomes attractive. At least I think so.

I imagine a group of perhaps 20 to thirty guests and an appropriate crew to operate the vessel and provide amenities to the passengers. There would be separate cabins, a few recreational areas and a dining hall available to the airborne clientele. A sizable ship, obviously. I think it would be very pleasant to rise above the hustle and bustle of the frenetic earth and move among the clouds. The views would be spectacular, of course, giving a perspective on the planet that is actually uncommon despite the air routes zig zagging around the globe. Commercial jets fly so high in order to travel efficiently that you’re actually too high for a really great view. Not to mention the scenes viewed through the crazed and often condensation blurred plastic windows can’t exactly be called panoramic. Plus, the thin and frigid air at 40,000 feet is hardly conducive to opening a window, which is a feature my envisioned dirigible would possess. Actually, I’m not the only one to have such an imagined future. Even greater plans than mine are in the works.

I like to imagine moving over and around the many scenic locations, flirting with mountains and valleys, lakes and coastlines while being pampered with delectable consumables by smiling attendants. No aluminum carts that barely travel the aisles, offering stale bags of chips and half cans of semi-chilled beverages. Real foods: omelets and pancakes, bacon and eggs in the morning, sandwiches and soups, cheese and crackers to lunch and snack on, and gourmet dinners following a cocktail hour. At bedtime one would snuggle into their ample sized memory foam beds. Of course, WiFi would be available and at no time would electronic devices need to be placed in airplane mode or turned off. It would be a luxury boutique hotel that moved along at a maximum of forty-five miles an hour. In the course of three days a distance of 1500 miles could be covered.

Of course, I imagine the flying behemoth to be electric, keeping noise and pollution to a minimum, all that surface area seeming to beg for solar cells. Wide bladed, slow turning propellers sliding the huge tube through the air without the whine and rumble of the jets and turboprops we associate with air travel. Of course, in my vision it’s not the speedy arrival at a destination that’s the point, instead it’s the leisurely journey that stars the show.

I’ve shared this idea with others since I first started thinking about it –back in the early 1970s as I was getting my pilot’s license. I’ve always been enthralled by a perspective of altitude, but one in the moderation of the small planes I flew and enjoyed so much. People would tell me that it would be too big and cumbersome, be too subject to the winds and weather, too expensive and prone to financial liabilities. No investor would risk it, so I’ve been told. But I think differently, of course. I think we have come a long way in the materials to make such a thing with, and that it wouldn’t be so frightfully expensive that it wouldn’t make a profit. Rather than thinking about the negatives, I keep my head in the clouds where my lumbering giant would roam. The more I think about it, the more developed it becomes, taking on more roles than whimsical voyages to get away from it all. I think of it as a research platform, offering an observation platform different than the planes, helicopters and ships employed.

But my mind feels comfortable just weighing the impractical journeys, showing a relaxed view to relaxed passengers that parades the world by at a relaxed pace. Sometimes you just have to slow down, and perhaps even stop to smell the proverbial roses. And I think a blimp would be a great way to do it.