Photos, story, video by Cassie Hepler
When you receive an email asking you to fly on a giant cucumber, the only answer you can have is yes. Yes squared. Or hells yeah!
That’s exactly what happened on a Friday during the Tall Ships Festival. After the opening of T Street at The Playground in Atlantic City, N.J. Thursday night, this reporter hightailed it back to Philly in the morning to make sure not one second was missed. Using a special code, the world’s most chatty Lyft driver swooped by and got to the Northeast Philadelphia Airport in record time.
This airport is well known for private jets, helicopters and not really any commercial flights (and confusing out-of-towners looking for the International airport). At the locked gate, a cucumber green van awaited like a pickled chariot. To the outdoor lounge we went, along with delicious scones and of course, refreshing cucumber and gin tonics. Without a tent, it was getting sizzly in the sun so those went down a little too smooth.
The 130-foot long, 44-foot tall Hendrick’s Air dirigible, or Flying Cucumber, was just a tiny dot in the sky after passengers next in line had already left the ground. In the meantime, a fresh-from-flight writer from Geekadelphia was schooled on the fine art of putting bubbles with the gin inside of a rounded Hendrick’s flash – a sort of McGyver way of doing so that we both loved.
Finally led out by a man in an amazing vintage flight outfit with a beautiful accent (you can hear him on the video), explained all about the Flying Cucumber and flight procedures. And the rest is best explained in a video and photo story, below.
If you are having difficulty picturing 130 feet, picture 3 buses lined up bumper-to-bumper – that’s the Flying Cucumber. Or picture 3 cucumbers the size of buses. The Flying Cucumber is filled with a volume of 68,000 cubic feet of helium. You could fill 136,000 party balloons with the amount of helium in the Airship.
The Flying Cucumber uses less fuel in two weeks of operation than a 747 Jumbo Jet uses to simply taxi to the end of a runway for take-off. The Hendrick’s Flying Cucumber does not deflate and ship from city to city; it stays continually inflated and flies everywhere it sees fit to go. This commitment to dirigible flight necessitates two resting days per week. Once in the air, it maintains a “civilized speed of 35 mph.”
The Flying Cucumber moves more like a slow, steady airplane more than a hot air balloon. From aircraft engines on each side, to instrumental panels used by experienced pilots during flight resembling car pedals and a wheelchair wheel, plus constant communication with the ground crew and Air Traffic Controllers all over the country.
The window to my right was open and the air was a nice, crisp cool breeze even as it was hazy and humid on the ground. It was delightful to put your hand out and catch the air with your fingertips. The maximum speed of the Flying Cucumber is approximately 45 mph, with an average speed of 35 mph. However, it has gone as fast as 57 mph with a tail wind, and as slow as 1 mph with a headwind. (This is about the same speed as a peregrine falcon… oh, to be a bird for a day!).
It was wonderful to watch the scenery in awe and pick Charlie’s brains as questions poured forth. The sheer size of Philadelphia is only parallel to one other city, he said.
Please excuse this writer’s yapping, rapid excited speech. Landing, as the pilot stated, sometimes freaks people out. This writer loved the thrill of the descent (but not the end of the ride!)
Hendrick’s Air was in NYC during the annual Cucumber Day celebrations on June 14. In related oddness, it would take more than 33 Hendrick’s Airships placed on top of each other to reach the very top of this city’s most iconic structure, the Empire State Building.
So how many cucumbers would fit into the Hendrick’s Flying Cumber? No need to bring your own collection to check, we’ve already stuffed and tested. The answer is a snug six million. Our question newly asked by Explore Philly was how much gin and/or bottles of booze would also fit inside the cucumber. An answer will surely be coming as curious types always need to explore more.
About Hendrick’s Gin
HENDRICK’S is a deliciously super premium gin, made with a number of unusual twists. To deliver a most curious and delightfully unique flavor, Hendrick’s combines a distinct blend of eleven botanicals, as well as the signature infusions of cucumber and rose petals, producing a wonderfully refreshing gin with a delightfully unique aroma. Hand crafted in Scotland in miniscule batches by William Grant & Sons, Hendrick’s is the only gin that uses a marriage of spirits from both a Carter-Head and Copper Pot Still, a combination that produces a divinely smooth gin that has both the required character and balance of subtle flavors. Since Hendrick’s was first introduced to America nearly 15 years ago, it has gained widespread acclaim and received numerous awards, including a Double Gold medal in the 2014 Fifty Best Gin Awards; ‘Gin of the Year’ at the Food and Wine Magazine Awards and voted ‘World’s Best Gin’ by the Wall Street Journal. Hendrick’s Gin has an ABV of 44% and an SRP of $34.99. Please enjoy the unusual responsibly. For further information, visit www.hendricksgin.com.
About William Grant & Sons
William Grant & Sons, Ltd. is an independent family-owned distiller headquartered in the United Kingdom and founded by William Grant in 1887. Today, the luxury spirits company is run by the fifth generation of his family and distills some of the world’s leading brands of Scotch whisky, including the world’s most awarded single malt Glenfiddich®, The Balvenie® range of handcrafted single malts and the world’s third largest blended Scotch Grant’s® along with iconic premium spirits brands Hendrick’s® Gin, Sailor Jerry® Rum, Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey and Milagro® Tequila.
William Grant & Sons has been honored as “Distiller of the Year” by the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition and International Spirits Challenge eleven times over the past 15 years, and most recently named “International Spirits Producer of the Year” by the IWSC in 2014.
Founded in 1964, William Grant & Sons USA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of William Grant & Sons, Ltd. and features one of the fastest growing spirits portfolios in the USA with brands including Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Rum, Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, Milagro Tequila, Flor de Caña, Drambuie, Grant’s, Hudson Whiskey, Gibson’s Finest, Monkey Shoulder, Clan MacGregor, Reyka Vodka, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Montelobos Mezcal, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Lillet, Art In The Age, The Knot, and Raynal French Brandy. For more information on the company and its brands, please visit www.grantusa.com.