Good Morning Jon;
Jim Byron (last address was West Haven, CT.) and I built the airship in 1986 and it was certificated through the Charleston, WV FSDO to fly within a 30 mile radius of Hurricane, West Virginia for the test phase. The N number represents May 1987 (Date of Certificate) Byron Fortin (Builders) N587BF. Jim and I built the ship in Shelton, CT. when I was working in the area. Jim designed the ship based on a Raven airship model. It has ten gores and is 110 feet in length and 70 feet tall. Fabric is Cameron Hyperlast circa 1987. We built the ship over the summer and fall of 1986 at Jim Byron's business. His business made mylar bags, specialty clothing and had sewing machines that could handle webbing, material and leather. We used a double lock stitch with interlocking folded fell seam. Load tapes are webbing with a four point attachment system for the gondola. The ship has 180 total hours to date. I am a hobbyist and fly only 10 -15 hours a year, usually fun events in WV. and VA.
I have mated a Balloon Works 4.9 basket with the system and have flown the equipment as a special shape. The gondola that I wove had 5 tanks, a boat steering rigging to move the transom on which a 50 hp Cuyuna engine with a 4 bladed prop was mounted in the rear of the basket. The idea was to angle the engine in such a way as to push the ship in the direction that I wanted to go and the ship would align itself. This worked pretty well. I was told that from the ground, it looked like we knew what we were doing. All I can say is that from the air, the area required to make a turn was so big that I couldn't tell what, if any, progress I made in controlling the ship. As Bill [Scarberry] stated, he was with me when we actually did get back to the launch area. The ship's name is 'No Deposit No Return'. The name was christened by a friend that had commented that we had tried several times to get back to where we started from without any luck. The name stuck. Most people that see me fly, adults & children, believe it to be a fish of some sort and call the ship 'Guppy' or the 'Fish'. The original gondola was way too cumbersome and required a rather large crew. It didn't take me too long to dismantle the original gondola and salvage parts for a cloudhopper project that I have yet to finish. My son and I mounted the engine on a lawn tractor and had fun playing with a tractor that would go 60 mph.
Since I fly primarily in the mountains of West Virginia, it has always amazed me that the ship always aligns itself with the valleys as I contour fly. The ship trims itself and I land with the nose leading the way. The ship flies wonderfully. As I change altitude the ship will spin and eventually points the way the wind is going. Pilots in events watch me to see which way the winds are blowing at different altitudes. I work like a wind sock and rotate with the prevailing winds.