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Business

New Zeppelin's Makers Sell First Airship

The makers of the newly-designed Zeppelin airship handed over its first dirigible to a commercial user on Saturday. A Japanese company that plans to use the 12-seat helium-filled aircraft for sightseeing tours will mark the German company's first customer order. The Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik started building the airships in 1996, but the sale to the Nippon Airship Corporation, sealed in March, was its first sale. The cigar-shaped 75-meter (247-foot) craft is expected to take off Sunday from Friedrichshafen, on the shores of Lake Constance, on its journey to Japan. Three pilots and three technicians for the airship's new owner were given a three-month course of intensive training to prepare for the lengthy voyage. Once it arrives in Japan in mid-August, it will be put to use for sightseeing flights, advertising and as an attraction at the 2005 World's Fair in Aichi. The era of the zeppelin as a mode of transport ended when the German-made Hindenburg caught fire in New Jersey in 1937, killing 35 of the 96 people on board.