“With iPhone, I can get an up-to-the-minute peek at what’s going on with the business.”
Airship Ventures: taking iPhone to new heights.
When Jim Dexter suits up to fly Eureka, one of the three Zeppelin airships in the world, he tucks iPhone into his pocket. It’s his go-to device for flight planning, weather reports, and keeping in touch with the ground crew. “It’s a huge leap in technology,” he says.
Dexter brings over 30 years of flight experience to his job as Director of Operations for Airship Ventures, a young California company founded by husband-and-wife team Brian and Alexandra Hall. In the heart of Silicon Valley, the Halls have introduced a little bit of adventure: a giant airship that makes tours around the San Francisco Bay.
In the air and in the office, Airship Ventures turns to iPhone for almost every aspect of their business. For the pilots, it begins with flight planning using aviation apps downloaded from the App Store. “I can pull up sectional charts,” Dexter says. “If I hear that we have a new operational requirement to go to, say, Long Beach, I can pull up the map for Long Beach on the iPhone. And that helps me plan the trip.”
Weather reports, of course, are mission-critical for flight. “I use AeroWeather to access aviation weather forecasting on the iPhone,” Dexter says. “It’s important to know what the wind is doing each hour.” His weather app also gives him the Terminal Area Forecast, a wind report for any airfield he might be flying into. “That’s extremely useful for a Zeppelin pilot.”
To help operate the Zeppelin, Dexter uses iConvert, an application that can toggle between metric and English measurements. “The Zeppelin is a European aircraft, and the figures are in metric,” he says. “With iConvert, I can go from kilograms to pounds and inches of mercury to millibars.”
Pilot Katherine Board, the only female Zeppelin pilot in the world, uses iPhone to consult the FAA website, which, among other things, broadcasts temporary flight restrictions. “We can look up whether there might be a restriction around a stadium, or an area where there’s a presidential visit,” she says.
“One of the distinct pleasures I had with iPhone was finding the applications that were useful to me as a pilot.”
She’s also glad to have iPhone on board for communicating with the ground. “We need to stay in contact with the crew at all times,” she explains. “And sometimes, especially in the Bay Area, where there are a lot of hills, we can get out of radio range. So we just use our iPhones to text the crew.”
Blogging from 1200 feet
When they first got iPhone, Co-Founders Brian and Alexandra Hall knew they would use it to help run their business. But they were surprised to discover that it can be a powerful marketing tool. They’re big fans of the camera on iPhone, which allows them to post photos on their blog from the air.
“One of the best things about the iPhone has been the ability to blog as things happen,” Alexandra says. “So when we’re on the airship, and something cool happens, I can use the iPhone camera to capture it and email it straight to our blog. And that instantaneous connection we have now with our customers is really valuable.”
Recently, local radio station KGO came aboard the Eureka to broadcast a morning show. “Because I had my iPhone, I was able to take snapshots of the crew and the presenters from before the sun came up until the end of the broadcast,” Alexandra says. “It added a great deal of value to our blog, because both listeners of the radio show and people who are interested in the airship were following along with the story as it happened.”
Keeping tabs on the business
As CEO, Alexandra Hall is at the helm of a very busy ship, with 35 employees and one rather large dirigible. “My iPhone helps me keep in touch with what’s going on in the company at all times,” she says. “And because we’re a 24/7 company, that’s really important.”
Every day, she uses iPhone to review Airship Ventures’ enterprise software. “I can look at the sales statistics on SalesForce.com and I can look at LightSpeed, which is the point-of-sale software that we use for ticketing. So I can get an up-to-the-minute peek of what’s going on with the business, just by using iPhone.”
Whether they’re mapping flight routes, checking weather, live-blogging from above San Francisco, or reviewing important business data, the team at Airship Ventures finds iPhone integral to every aspect of their business. “The iPhone just fits into our work style,” Brian Hall says. “It’s a part of almost everything we do. And I think we’re only at the tip of exploring what it can do for Airship Ventures.”
- 35 employees
- Moffett Field, California
Making a big impression
When the Zeppelin first arrived in the US from Europe, Katherine Board piloted it from the East Coast to California. She has fond memories of using iPhone on that inaugural trip. “We flew over an airport in Arizona, near Tucson. It was an air force base right near the boneyards. And the air traffic controller spoke to us, and obviously he’d never seen a zeppelin before, and he was excited. A few minutes later, Brian Hall actually came to me with the iPhone and said, ‘Look.’ The air traffic controller had just posted to our tracking blog. He wrote that not only had he seen us, but he had spoken to the pilots. That was really cool.”
One of the joys of running an airship company is attracting attention. With iPhone, the Halls can tweet from the air—and they can follow the tweets of people on the ground. “The other day I was doing a search on Twitter,” Alexandra says. “I was trying to figure out if people were seeing us. And it was fascinating to see how many people were commenting—‘Oh, yeah, I saw it while I was coming out of the restaurant.’ ‘Oh, I was parking my car and I saw it.’ It’s something that people feel is noteworthy enough to tweet about.”