Recently telecom major, Vodafone launched Airship A-60+ in the Indian skies. The objective behind this initiative was to thank 100 million Vodafone subscribers, by giving some of them a chance to be seated in the deck of the airship for a leisurely journey. Starting from Mumbai, the air vessel will now travel through popular cities, such as Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and finally end its tour in New Delhi.
To participate in the Win an Airship Ride contest, customers need to register by calling 123123 (toll free) and answer a question on the IVR. The winners are being announced on a daily basis.
Speaking on this initiative, Kumar Ramanathan, chief marketing officer, Vodafone Essar, says, "Our customers are special to us. Apart from innovative products and services, we constantly endeavour to bring unique international experiences for them."
The Airship A-60+ is manufactured by American Blimp Corporation. The large balloon structure is filled with 68,000 cubic feet of helium and is 128 ft long, 36 ft wide and 44 ft high. The seating cabin under its belly can seat three passengers, other than the pilot and co-pilot. In each city, the airship will fly above 1,000 ft for seven to eight hours, cruising at an average speed of 32mph (28 knots) in favourable wind conditions.
The activity is being carried out in association with Milestone Brandcom. Last month, afaqs! reported how the agency had formed a strategic alliance with Lightship Asia Pacific, a subsidiary of one of the largest airship operators, to market airships (blimps) or Lightships in the country.
According to an industry source, running a two-month-long campaign on an airship can cost Rs 6.5 crore approximately.
With advanced materials and computer aided designs, the airships today are way ahead of those 50 years ago. Once airborne, airships remain nearly geostationary for long periods of time. But unlike helicopters, airships do not need much power to stay airborne. And because of this, airships have quiet cabins and low vibration levels, hence making for a comfortable trip across the sky.
Airships follow the general aviation rule of flying at a minimum of 1,000 ft above ground level. Permissions for these are sought from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), as well as other relevant authorities that are handled by a general aviation entity.
During the IPL matches recently, smaller blimps, about 19 metres long, were deployed by the tyre manufacturer, MRF at the stadiums in Mumbai, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bengaluru and Cuttack. These were without a deck; and flying these did not require permissions from the concerned authorities.