This post is a pointer to a set of Flickr photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/edyson/sets/72157602060974418/ from my trip last week aboard Airship Management's blimp, cruising around New York City. If you see/saw a white blimp cruising around the city, it's probably the one I was on.
The company is based in Greenwich, Connecticut, and, with partners, manages six blimps. Each airship is about 200 feet long , with a volume of about 250,000 cubic feet. The ships themselves check in regularly at the company's repair station and technical facility in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The company now wants to set up shop around New York City and is looking for a suitable launch location there. It's also looking for funding (around $ 10 million): The three major revenue sources are advertising, paid tours (disclosure: mine was free; thanks, George!) and surveillance. One ship is used full-time hunting drug-runners and other miscreants in the Caribbean.
CEO George Spyrou originally got involved with the company as a maritime lawyer searching for things more exciting in the mid-80s. And excitement he got: Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond won the Americas Cup sailboat race and bought into the predecessor English company, Airship Industries Ltd., a publicly traded enterprise, in 1985. However, Bond's own company collapsed in 1989 and took AIL with it in 1990. With the support of Fujifilm and Japanese trading house Nissho Iwai Corporation, Spyrou eventually bought all of the rights and now owns four of the six ships.
We left from Floyd Bennett Field (following the lead of Amelia Earhart among others), but it's a bit remote and you can get delayed by traffic on the two ground routes - either Flatbush Avenue or the Belt Parkway (as my co-pilot on a United Airlines flight did this morning, FWIW).
The trip was absolutely stunning: Our flight the day before was canceled because of weather - not rain, but the winds that accompanied the front that came in and cleared out the rain. So we got an absolutely stunning view from about 3000 feet up, sailing serenely with the windows wide open. I clung tightly to my camera but I completely forgot about the glasses perched on my head and got to watch them fly away - fortunately they were dense enough to fall rather than get sucked into the propeller.
We traveled around the edges of the city (on a route controlled by the ATC at LGA, JFK and EWR) and circled the Statue of Liberty.
Further disclosure: I am involved with another similar venture, Airship Ventures, which is not yet operating, but will likely offer similar tours in the Bay Area.