Holden Airship Says Farewell to the Fans

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2007-09-11 -- The Holden Airship will have its public farewell later this week as its year-long promotional program comes to an end.

'Big Red', as the airship has become affectionately known, will fly over the V8 Supercars race at Sandown in Victoria this weekend, lending its support to the Holden Commodores racing in the championships, and to the legions of Holden fans cheering them on.

In the past 12 months, the Holden Airship has made over 400 flights and covered more than 100,000kms. It is the only airship to tour the entire Australian coastline from Adelaide to Cairns, making appearances at dealer events, airshows and sporting events including the V8 Supercars Series.

Philip Brook, Marketing Director for GM Holden says that the airship was an innovative marketing tool and a great way to boost awareness of Holden's billion dollar baby - the all-new VE Commodore.

"At Holden we look to innovate in all areas of our business - including marketing. Introducing the airship to support our most important new model was about doing things differently. It demonstrated how we always like to think outside the square - just like our move to make ESP standard on a Ute.

"Commodore is still the best selling passenger car for the year to date so we would say that the airship has definitely played its part in our continuing success.

"Wherever the Airship has flown, we have received great feedback from the general public. There won't be too many people from Cairns to Adelaide that didn't get to see Big Red on the horizon."

The Holden Airship stretches across 54.3 metres and stands 16.8 metres tall, making it longer and taller than the current generation of Boeing 737 airplanes.

It features a colour screen which is 21.3 metres wide and 9.1 metres tall, lit by 369,600 light emitting diodes (LEDs). During GM Holden's exclusive sponsorship of the airship, the screen has been used to advertise Holden's entire car range, promote local dealerships and Holden's community partners and to send Happy Birthday and Get Well Soon messages to loved ones.

The Holden Airship was leased for the year from the Lightship Group, the world's largest operator of airships. Director of the Lightship Group in Australia, Gary Walsh says that the 20-strong Airship team has had many highlights over the past year.

"One of the greatest memories was seeing the faces of the sick children and families we were able to fly through the Starlight Foundation. A flight in an airship is a once in a lifetime opportunity so we were delighted to be able to help out with joy flights for these special families." Says Gary.

"We also worked with GM Holden and its community partners to raise funds through auctioning rides on the airship. We met some very generous Australians who were only too pleased to pay several thousand dollars for a joyflight to help out their chosen charity."

Later this month, the Holden Airship will be decommissioned and shipped back to USA where it will be prepared for its next international contract.

Holden Airship Specifications

Model - A-170 Lightship

The Lightship A-170 is a conventional twin-engine airship.

The general layout of the airship consists of:

1. Gondola with seating for 5 passengers and 1 pilot.
2. Envelope containing the helium.
3. Four fins, with rudder and elevator control surfaces, attached to the envelope.
4. Nose dish, attached to the front of the envelope, used to moor the airship when on the ground.
5. Two aircraft power plants, attached to the gondola.

Designed originally for advertising, and thus kept simple for reliability, the American Blimp airships have almost 200,000 flight hours. A large portion of these hours has been flown with various types of broadcast cameras and data downlinks covering events for media or security. The airship has also been adapted as a communications and sensor platform for a multitude of other missions.

Overall Specifications

Type: A-170 (Lightship)
Length: 54.3 metres
Height: 16.8 metres
Width: 14.0 metres
Maximum volume: 4,822,285 litres
Maximum lift: 5,584 kg
Fuel Quantity: 673 litres

Gondola Specifications

Length: 8.0 metres (cabin 5.5 metres)
Height: 3.3 metres (cabin 2.0 metres)
Width: 6.2 metres (cabin 1.5 metres)
Camera: Mounting to accommodate gyrostabilized camera.
Capabilities: Television and video photography.


914 inch Screen

(measured diagonally)
Length: 21.3 metres
Height: 9.1 metres
LEDs: 369,600


Lifting gas: Approx 5 million litres of helium
Passenger capacity: 5 plus pilot

Cruise Speed
74 km/h

Maximum Speed
84 km/h

Power: Twin Lycoming IO-360-B1G6 with constant-speed variable-pitch reversible propellers

Fuel Consumption: 91 litres per hour at Cruise Speed

Range: 400 km

Endurance: 7.5 hours at Cruise Speed.

Max rate of climb: 425 metres per minute

Max rate of descent: 485 metres per minute

Electrical system: Two 200 amp alternators

Flight Configuration: Day/night, VFR/IFR

Crew: 19 overall ground and flight crew including crew chief, port noseline, starboard noseline, gondola crew and camera operator.

Gondola Layout

The gondola structure is of welded steel tubing. Skin covering is a combination of aluminium and fabric. Seats and flight controls are an integral part of the frame. The gondola is connected to the envelope by 16 external cables. The gondola is divided into five main compartments:

1. Flight Deck
2. Personnel/Passenger Compartment (cabin)
3. Electrical Bay
4. Equipment compartment
5. Ballast compartment

The Flight Deck houses the avionics panel, flight controls, pilot station, seating for one passenger and can be configured to accommodate various equipment required for special missions. The instruments and layout are typical for a twin engine IFR approved aircraft with added instruments for the airship pressure management aspects of the vehicle. Access to the ballonet and the ballonet view-window are located on the Flight Deck.

The Personnel compartment is accessible through a main entry door located aft of the Flight Deck on the port side of the gondola. A bench seat that provides seating for three is located against the aft bulkhead. The aft bulkhead separates the Personnel compartment from the Electrical Bay and Equipment compartment. An EMERGENCY exit is located directly aft of the co-pilot/pax seat on the starboard side of the gondola.

The Electrical Bay contains the equipment to monitor, regulate and distribute the electrical power. The Equipment compartment contains the air plenum chamber and the fuel tank, which feeds two tractor mounted power plants. The power plants are mounted on outriggers at the aft end of the gondola.

The Ballast compartment is located beneath the rear bench seat located in the personnel compartment. The Ballast compartment is accessible from four outer crew access doors located on the port and starboard side of the gondola and forward of the outriggers. The rear bench seat can be raised for access from within the personnel compartment. In addition to ballast, this compartment also houses the ship's batteries and electrical power distribution system.

Source: Holden GM

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