Blimpin’ Ain’t Easy: Crossing the English Channel in a Pedal-Powered Airship*… Thanks Sam!
You know it’s hard up here for a blimp. Or so says Stephane Rousson, a 39-year-old Frenchman who’s hoping to cross the English Channel in a homemade, pedal-powered airship. As a child, he was captivated by the Gossamer Albatross, the first entirely human-powered craft to fly the turbulent stretch from England to France. Hoping to repeat that 1979 feat, Rousson acquired Zeppy, a crank-driven zeppelin. Built originally by Jean Marc Geiser and his son Luc back in 1984, the craft’s forward momentum and steering come from a pair of 10-foot movable propellers, churned by a recumbent bike hanging from the ship’s belly; Rousson modified the chassis to improve its stability and power. He has logged more than 30 hours of flight time, including a four-hour hop around the coastal town of Toulon. But so far, no English Channel. The problem: Breezes over 5 mph bat the blimp around like a cat playing with a moth. Also, the heat of the sun raises the temperature of the helium in the Zeppy, which could cause it to explode. With the channel typically experiencing only three windless days a year, Rousson will have to time his five-hour, 34-mile flight perfectly. He plans to try again in September. Here’s hoping the attempt doesn’t go down like a lead balloon.