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World's largest passenger airship grounded due to rising helium costs

Airship Ventures

In 2007 Airship Ventures was founded with the goal of bringing back the Zeppelin — but now that dream is dead. The company has announced that it is ceasing operations, citing a combination of the economic recession and a global helium shortage that bumped up operating costs. Making matters worse, the company also struggled to find a long-term sponsor. Operating largely in California, Airship's Zeppelin Eureka shuttled more than 20,000 sightseers during its brief existence, and the company worked with partners as diverse as ESPN and NASA, to do everything from searching for meteorites to providing aerial coverage for football games.

According to the company, it was the first large-scale airship operation in America since the 1930s, and the Eureka was largest passenger airship in the world. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Eureka — which was leased from the Zeppelin company — will likely be sent back to Germany and disassembled. Whether or not another company is able to successfully fill the void remains to be seen, though airships are still being developed for military operations. "Operating this unique aircraft has been an inspiring experience," CEO Brian Hall said in a goodbye letter, "and it is with a very heavy heart that we've come to this point requiring us to cease operations and ground Eureka."

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