Reported from Bangkok, December 19, 2004

Theme park for 'Zeppelin' hangar
Tropical Islands resort in airship hangar
Backers hope the park will attract three million visitors a year

A huge hangar built to house modern versions of the Zeppelin airship has been turned into a tropical theme park.

It came about after the airship developers CargoLifter, the firm that built the hangar in south-east Germany in 2000, went bust.

The empty building has been transformed into the Tropical Islands park at a cost of some 70m euros ($93m).

It boasts lakes, a beach and a jungle made up of 10,000 tropical plants - and may host nightly musical performances.

CargoLifter originally built the hangar to develop airships to move bulky cargo such as turbines and oil rigs over long distances.

Such airships would have been built along the lines of the original Zeppelin, but would have been twice the volume and used inert helium gas instead of flammable hydrogen.

The airship had not been seriously considered as a viable form of transport since one of the original passenger-carrying Zeppelins, the Hindenburg, burst into flames over the US in 1937.

Visitor target

CargoLifter built the hangar in Brandenburg, about 100km south of Berlin.

With a surface area of 75,600 sq m (813,760 sq ft) and at a height of 197m (646ft), it stands out on the flat landscape.

But CargoLifter filed for bankruptcy in June 2002, and never built one of the airships.

The theme park has been funded by a Malaysian-British investor group called Au/Tanjong.

They hope to attract three million visitors a year to the park, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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