In January of 2001, a blimp owned and operated by Las Vegas-based Airship USA slipped the surly bonds of Earth and man and wandered the skies of the greater San Francisco metropolitan area before finally crashing into a Bay Area restaurant.
Remarkably, no one was hurt in the incident, and even more remarkably, no one interpreted the event as an omen for the principal advertising sponsor of the blimp’s visit to the Bay Area. Said sponsor? The ill-fated XFL.
Here are two stories from SFGate.com, the online presence for the San Francisco Chronicle, um, chronicling the event:
XFL’S UNPLANNED TOUCHDOWN:
Wayward blimp’s wild, woolly flight ends in Oakland crash – dated 01/10/2001
Runaway blimp lands atop Oakland waterfront restaurant – dated 01/09/2001
Intriguingly, the article notes that the blimp involved in the accident had already claimed two lives. A tiny bit of digging revealed, via an LA Times story hosted on the manufacturer’s website, that two people involved in the construction of the airship died while within the gasbag of the ship itself, when helium entered the part of the bag they were working on.
Much to my pleasure, I discovered that the manufacturer, Aeros Airships, was founded by a visionary Russian aviation engineer, Igor Pasternak. Part of this pleasure is due to my current reading, the second book of Michael Moorcock’s four-volume historical fiction novels of the twentieth century, the Colonel Pyat cycle.
Colonel Pyat is a victim of history; and by his own account, a visionary aeronautic engineer, and a self-deceiving drug-dependent con artist with a bad luck streak a mile wide. I feel quite certain Mr. Pasternak only shares the Colonel’s good features.
Additionally, Moorcock’s work includes “The Warlord of the Air”, a tale of the greatest of fictional airship fleets, a fleet constructed for the anarchist utopians of the central Russian steppe. Led by Mr. Moorcock’s romanticized version of Nestor Makhno (an anarchist military and social leader during the period of Russia’s civil war following the Revolution), the fleet enables the anarchist hordes to establish a new golden age. Said golden age, naturally, spans the globe and opens a bright new chapter in the history of mankind, with liberty, justice, social equality, and cool victorian technology for all.
It’s a great work of both airship and anarchist propaganda, which makes no bones of its debt to the sentimental boy’s novels of aviation and right conduct such as the well known Tom Swift series. It’s loads and loads of fun. Don’t look too closely now, or you’ll note that’s it’s kinda litr’y to boot.
And with that, the curtain falls on BLIMP WEEK. I’m sure I’ll revisit the theme of LTA as I keep this crazy rattletrap dream alive – thanks for coming by! If ever I cut a side of “The Wreck of the Shenandoah”, you’ll find it right here.