Name ID 2056
The project started in autumn 1995 with discussions between Mucky and Bernd Wilting, a German TV producer. Bernd was enthusiastic about the project and started to contact various German TV-stations. Mucky concentrated to get the funding aspect going and presented the project to the Adler fashion company. Adler (which means „eagle“ in German) is GEFA-FLUG´s main sponsor for airships since 1991. Adler was interested „the same day“ to sponsor the project in reward for all the PR rights. A first reconnaissance visit to Tanzania took place in march 1997 to find out about wind and weather and to contact various people who were related with father and son Grzimek in the 50ties. One of them was Dr. Markus Borner, nowadays in care of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Grzimek foundation. The other one was Alan Root. Both were exited about the concept and willing to cooperate and gave useful hints and names of authorities and organisations to be contacted.
After a long struggle with Tanzanian authorities for over a year and with the exceptionell support of Serengeti Balloon Safaris (Tony Pascoe and Mike Toogood were sometimes more therapists than advisers to Mucky in his long struggle with Tanzanian authorities), based in London and Arusha everything was organised including air-transportation of the airship. Finally a method was found together with the Dutch KLM who flies into Kilimanjaro airport to get the beasty airship gondola through the freight door of the BAC 111 within a margin of 13 mm! The expedition diary simply says: „We were all very delighted when the aircraft´s door closed behind the gondola sitting on the special open KLM plattform“.
Before we follow the expedition logbook we should read some technical data about the airship which has been used. It is an AS 105 GD, which has been developed and build by GEFA-FLUG using an upgraded Thunder & Colt twinseater gondola. This type of craft is longer and thinner than hotair-airships build by other manufacturers and does have features like pitch control and a higher speed. On top of that the envelope and fin configuration has been developed by the technical university in Aachen, using the university´s world famous windtunnel and with the help of numerous computer simulations. The Serengeti airship can carry two persons, from next year onwards there will also be a fourseater version available.
Germany has been traditionally the country of airships at the beginning of our century. Count von Zeppelin as „the father of airships" is still well known all over the world. The reasons why we do not see many airships today is, that „heavier than air" aircrafts have advantages like speed and weather resistance. There is a cynical reason as well. Airships are very peaceful tools and can not be used for military purposes, because they are slow and built out of light and vulnerable materials and have therefore not been pushed forward over the last decades. For a couple of years now, we have heard of a come back of Zeppelin-airships built at Lake Constance in Germany. There is however another airship manufacturing company in Germany who builds hotair-airships for quite some years now and with quite some success. The company´s name is GEFA-FLUG and it lives in the most western part of Germany, in Aachen.
GEFA-FLUG has been using airships for more than 15 years as camera platforms for archaeological and environmental survey projects (universities and environmental organisations like WWF, NABU, DMT, Greenpeace) and wild life filming in more than a dozen countries. Airships have advantages over the ordinary aircraft and the helicopter. They can fly very slow (ordinary aircraft can not), they can hover over a given spot - like a helicopter – but without disturbing the surface underneath.They have no rotor downwash because they hover due to their lift of hot air. It is however to be taken into consideration, that this type of airship is weather dependent, similar to a hotair balloon.
GEFA-FLUG´s managing director is Karl-Ludwig (Mucky) Busemeyer, for more than 35 years dreaming to use airships not as large billboards but as camera carriers. One of his deams for many years was to fly an airship in the Serengeti on the footprints of father and son Grzimek, two famous german zoologists who worked out in Tanzania to survey the big heards of wildebeests and zebras. They used a single engined aeroplane in 1958 and the outcome was an oscar-prized film and a bestseller-book „Serengeti shall not die“. It happened that Alan Root, legendary pioneering balloonist out in Kenia for more than three decades (we all know Antony Smith´s books: „Throw out two hands“) was the main cameraman of father and son Grzimek in 1958 and 1959.
Mucky Busemeyer´s idea was to get various aspects of the old Grzimek project combined to a new story and producing a TV documentry aout it, flying at Grzimek´s locations, meeting up with their comrades but using an airship this time instead of a light aeroplane.