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The Zeppelin is writing a new chapter of history more than 110 years after its maiden flight. As summer kicks off, a company is offering a bird’s-eye views of some of the most popular tourist attractions near the French capital.
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

"Welcome aboard our Zeppelin. Fasten your seatbelts and turn off your mobile phones. Need I remind you that smoking is prohibited?" the hostess jokes at the start of the voyage. For the next 60 minutes a dozen passengers will enjoy sites like Vincent Van Gogh’s home and the Château de Chantilly from 300 metres above the earth, about the same height as the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck.
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

From June to October, the helium-packed balloon floats over some of the region’s most beautiful historical sites. Auvers-sur-Oise, the church which features in some of Van Gogh’s masterpieces, and Chantilly, with its sculpted gardens and racetrack, can be spied from the skies.
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

The Zeppelin, which also offers stunning views of the Royaumont Abbey, cruises at the comfortable speed of 65 km/h. "This trip is an ode to slow," says Frank Glaser, who has taken a brazen gamble by launching AirshipParis. "It took us five years to get this project off the ground. It was the time we needed to raise funds to buy the aircraft and to obtain permission to fly over the Paris region."
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

The flying behemoth manages to defy both gravity and time. The Zeppelin, named after its German creator, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, first flew in 1900 over Lake Constance, on Germany’s border with Switzerland and Austria. It was used infamously during World War I by Germany’s. Bombs dropped by Zeppelins hit parts of London (albeit accidentally) and eastern neighbourhoods of Paris. But the aircrafts were decidedly ineffective as machines of war and were quickly replaced by fighter planes.
Photo: AFP

The Zeppelin made a commercial comeback during the inter-war period, ferrying wealthy passengers across the Atlantic. In 1928, a Zeppelin famously transported 57 people from Friedrichshafen, Germany to New Jersey, USA in four days. The following year, 50 thrill-seekers flew in the Zeppelin’s first around-the-globe trip in just 20 days.
Photo: AFP

Once a symbol of German national pride, the Zeppelin sank into infamy as it was transformed into a tool of Nazi propaganda. All were required to display the swastika.
Photo: AFP

The Hindenburg disaster in 1937 brought the Zeppelin’s commercial business to an abrupt end. The LZ 129 Hindenburg exploded in massive ball of flames as it attempted to dock at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Of the 97 passengers and crew, 35 were killed in the accident.
Photo: AFP

A safer version of the Zeppelin has now been built. The new balloons measure around 75 metres in length, about one-third the size of the designs of the 1920s. Furthermore, with three motors fixed to the structure, the modern-day Zeppelin is much less noisy for passengers (65 decibels inside the cabin).
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

Glaser sums up the mechanism of the aircraft like this: "The Zeppelin is like a plane, but it takes off and lands like a helicopter and sails through the air like a boat."
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

During the flight, passengers are free to walk around the gondola, to open the windows and take in the view. Both the pilot and hostess, whose great-grandfather was a mechanic on the Hindenburg, are on hand to talk about the history and inner workings of the craft.
Photo: Airship Paris

Trips on AirshipParis last 30 to 60 minutes, with a cost of 250 euros and 450 euros per passenger.
Photo: Ségolène Allemandou / FRANCE 24

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In pictures: Zeppelin makes comeback
on the outskirts of Paris
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