The year 2013 has been the 150th birthday of Bayer (makers of aspirin and more), and to celebrate, the company has been sending a hot-air airship to tour the world and promote the brand. With a 65-horsepower Rotax two-stroke engine in the tail to provide forward and reverse thrust, the airship has a leisurely top speed of 25 mph. Senior associate editor Perry Turner talked with one of its pilots, Haimo Wendelstein of Germany, in September.
From This Story
Air & Space: How did you get into flying lighter-than-air craft?
Wendelstein: That was in 1983, when I started to help the general manager of a children’s village in the south of Germany to do charity balloon flights all over the world. I was a crew member. He [the general manager] asked me several times to get the licence, but I always postponed it until 1992.
What qualities in your personality make you suited to flying hot-air airships?
Wow, that’s a difficult question to answer. Many people say about me that I always keep my calm and that I am very prudent. Also I was told that I have a “dry” humor. These capabilities keep me out of problems in the air.
What's the closest you've come to encountering a problem in an airship?
That happened some years ago in wintertime in the Alps. Weather sunny, forecast okay. After 20 minutes flying, a hard gust pushed the airship down, until it hits the ground. I deflated immediately.
The wind in the upper region picked up quickly, and that causes the gusts in the valley. It was hard work to get the airship out of a field with two-meter-high snow.
Have you ever had a passenger have a bad reaction—fear of flying, airsickness, anything like that?