November 23, 2007 / 10:22 AM / 10 years ago

Tourists cruise Tokyo skies in Zeppelin airship

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tourists launched into the night skies over Tokyo in a Zeppelin airship on Friday, in a novel sightseeing service offered by a local travel company.

Daytime flights had to be cancelled because of high winds, an official at Nippon Airship Corporation said.

Despite its 75-metre (250 ft) length, the Zeppelin NT ship, which will fly a route over Tokyo for the next few weeks, carries only about seven or eight passengers, each of whom must pay at least 126,000 yen ($1,100) for a 90-minute tour.

Tourists ride in a small gondola below the main body of the ship, which is buoyed by helium gas and driven by a small engine.

Organizers say travel in an airship is slower and quieter than in an ordinary aircraft, enabling tourists to enjoy the view at a relaxed pace.

Given airships’ record of high-profile accidents in the 1930s, the Nippon Airship Corporation emphasizes the safety of modern airships. More than 60,000 people have ridden in similar Zeppelin NT airships in Germany since 2001, the company’s Web site says.

The USS Akron, a military airship, was caught in a storm off New Jersey in 1933 and flew into the sea, killing 73 of the 76 men on board. The Hindenburg burst into flames just before landing in New Jersey after a flight from Germany in 1937, killing 36 people.

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds

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