The purpose of this guide is to promote the fine activity of Airshipping and to spur discussion on all the details that still remain a mystery. Consider the state of this guide to be "incomplete", although there will be plenty of updates as others add their observations and we learn more! If you are making your own guide feel free to use any or all of the information here if it helps!
Think of this section as the TL;DR of the guide.
1.When building airship parts, don't worry too much about using HQ mats. It has no influence on the "quality" rating for each phase. The only benefit to using HQ mats is the exp bonus for making them and turning them in.
2.Even though it is fairly easy to get plans for enterprise-type parts early on, I don't recommend skipping the invincible parts entirely. It is a long road to rank 15 on just bronco parts!
3.If you aren't sure which parts to upgrade first, consider upgrading your aftcastle (+retrieval). This part offers the biggest increase to EXP by boosting your extraction ratings. Although the forecastle is a tempting upgrade stats-wise, it will not offer an EXP boost.
Airship Stats and Upgrade Recommendations
1.Surveillance: Influences the probability of gathering a 2nd item per sector. May also influence the probability of finding new sectors.
2.Retrieval: Increases item extraction rating (higher quantities of a specific item).
3.Speed: Influences voyage duration.
4.Range: Allows you to visit more sectors per voyage.
5.Favor:(Speculation: Probability of HQ, Influences weather conditions encountered)
The following are your upgrade options and guidelines for how to prioritize:
1).Hull (+14 Range, -4 Favor): In some cases, you will be able to reach more sectors. Think of it as a general bonus to EXP and Items that increases in tiers as you unlock new sectors.
2).Rigging (+14 Speed, -4 Retreival, -4 Range): Better speed means more voyages in the same amount of time.. This is a more linear increase in EXP and items, but the bonus to exp is mitigated by decreasing the other two stats that influence EXP.
3).Forecastle (+14 Surveillance, +14 Favor): Better surveillance gives you a better chance of finding a 2nd item for each sector. However, finding a 2nd item does not seem important for increasing your overall rating bonus to EXP. It makes sense to upgrade this if your biggest barrier is a lack of materials available to build new parts.
4).Aftcastle (+14 Retrieval, -4 Surveillance, -4 Speed): This part seems the most important for improving your overall EXP by improving your rating bonus. It makes sense to upgrade this first if your biggest barrier is rank/airframe capacity.
Items according to sector
The following is a very rough list of items that you can gather in each sector. Consider it far from comprehensive at this stage.
Sector 1: Wind crystals; Lightning crystals; Bamboo; Vivianite; Vitality Materia III; Ferberite; Dexterity III
Sector 2: Fire crystals; Vivianite; Bamboo; Quicktongue III; Gold Ore
Sector 3: Red Moko Grass; Balsa Wood Scraps; Craftsman Competence III
Sector 4: Water crystals; Red Moko Grass; Balsa wood lumber; Fine Alumen; Scarlet Sap; Gatherer's Grasp III materia; Gatherer's Grasp II
Sector 5: Lightning crystals; Wind crystals; Empty crystals; Deep Red Crystals; Birch Branch; Vitality III
Sector 6: Empty Crystals; Dark Chestnut Branch; Piety III
Sector 7: Ferberite