Around the World in an Airship

Bayer airship pilot Haimo Wendelstein reflects on one of the mellowest forms of flying.

(Courtesy Bayer AG)

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A very few passangers have some fear of heights, or they are uncertain about the open gondola without a windscreen or a door. But it takes only minutes until all fears will disappear. Flying in an airship is a totally different feeling, a kind of floating in the air, slow, not agressive, no fast climbing or descending.

What other airship piloting experience did you have before taking on the Bayer assignment?

In the years before, I flew with different hot-air airships all over the world: North America, South America, Asia, and of course nearly in every country in Europe.

When you fly a hot-air airship, do you have another crew member aboard?

Normally a hot-air airship can be flown by one pilot, but for Bayer I have a copilot on board; this is a Bayer policy. And if I have to fly passengers, I need one extra crew to handle the passengers. Passengers must change [enter and exit] one by one. They have to wait until the air inside cools down; otherwise the airship will disappear in the stratosphere. They need help with seat belts and headset, and they must approach the gondola only from the front side to avoid contact with the propeller. Most of the passengers are excited and want to make pictures, so it is really necessary to guide them.

For the pilot, are there a lot of tasks to handle at once?

Flying an airship, in my opinion, is like driving a car. There are many things that you have to do at the same time, but once you get used to it, you do not think about every single step.

What have been some of your favorite places to fly over?

Every place has its own charm, but there are still some that I remember clearly—for example, Malaysia. This country is near to the equator, and has a tropical climate with huge cumulonimbus, thunderstorms, and heavy rainshowers every day.

A few months ago I flew around the Statue of Liberty, which is really spectacular.

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