Articles

The Rise of Zeppelin’s Airships

September 23, 2019


On july 2nd, 1900 a feisty count Ferdinand von Zeppelin staked his
fortune and reputation on a crazy idea, three
years before the Wright brothers first flight the count’s first rigid airship took
flight over Lake Constance in southern Germany it flew for 18 minutes and a distance of
three and a half miles The LZ-1 for (Luftschiff Zeppelin 1) was 416 feet long 38-1/2 feet in diameter, and had a
lifting capacity of more than 27,000 pounds how did he do it rather than fill one
air bag with hydrogen as his predecessors had the count inflated 17 large gas cells and enclosed them in a rigid aerodynamic
structure of aluminum alloy or Duralumin the airship was powered by two engines
with combined horsepower of a Volkswagen Beetle at the turn of the century it was the
invention of the internal combustion engine that help make the count’s dream of a
rigid airship a reality but they were expensive to build the German military said if the count zeppeline can keep his airship in the air for 24 hours endurance that
they would be willing to purchase then his next their ship, during one 24-hour
endurance fly Count von zeppelin experienced engine
trouble and put the airship down near the dialer engine works and went to lunch, it would
prove for two witness. It in the meantime a storm came and
blew the airship away Most unfortunate for the count
because it didn’t fulfill his 24-hour endurance requirement for
government sponsorship but what happened was a spontaneous flood of donations came from the German
people to help pay for the next airship he received about seven and a half
million gold marks from the most of the donations that came in to
build a Zeppelin company and to build future airships It was a technical marvel as zeppelin began to work the bugs out and began to
be used more or less routinely just before World War one there was a
german zeppeline commercial service called the DELAG the difference that led to the DELAG
were making what we would call joy rides you have remember aviation was totally
new and people really paid for the
flights simply to have a bird’s eye view of the city or
town which they lived in what’s interesting to note though is the
number the passengers were not Germans the enthusiasm of taking a flight on an airship had
reached are virtually every corner of the world by 1914 the DELAG airships carried
more than 34,000 passengers over 100,000 miles without a single accident it wasn’t economical success. But with
the start of World War One the DELAG commercial service came to an end and
Zeppelines were used for military purposes The zeppeline was touted as the great secret weapon that was going to
revolutionize warfare the German region airships reigns
supreme capable of flying above 11,000 feet they will well above the Rangers
ground-based anti-aircraft guns and not a single airship was lost to
enemy fire the German military ordered 26 airships
during the first year of the war and the Zeppelin company went into high gear they were producing a rigid airship
basically every two weeks of one the factories somewhere in
Germany it takes a million rivets to produce one airship it also takes
seven hundred thousand skins that is the internal intestines of the cow to make all the gas bags for one airship it was a huge wartime effort Zeppelins were used by the German military
for reconnaissance as well as bombing raids over Great
Britain, they were above the clouds oftentimes they were trying to use radios as a means of navigation and raid took place by a zeppeline mission commander report that he rated
this place for that place and he was nowhere near there was no
bombing accuracy. On the other hand they are shifted in large amount reconnaissance work
basically flying over the sea watching out for the
British Navy as the war escalated the germans built
lighter and lighter airships capable of operating at an
altitude have 20,000 feet frustrated by the lack of rigid
airship technology the British concentrated on building fighter planes capable of climbing 22,000 feet the ammunition that could bring the high-flying
Zeppelins down thing that really did the airships in
during the First World War was the development by the British of
the so-called incendiary bullet a bullet like this hitting an airship
filled with hydrogen meant one bullet was all it took to bring
in a ship down in flames it was not the great Zeppelin airships that
revolutionized warfare in world war 1 instead it turned out to be a small
incendiary bomb in march of 1917 at the
age of 78 count Von Zeppelin died Two zeppelins dropped flowers as his coffin was lowered
into the earth At the end of World War one the great
German Zeppelin company was forbidden from building anymore airships by the Treaty of
Versailles, the remaining Zeppelin airships were to be divided up among
the allies but the German airship crews basically
destroyed the majority of their ships in their hangers before the treaty went
into effect the airships that the Germans did
give over for example to the French they didn’t
give them the technology to how to operate them and how to
maintain them, that they kept to themselves. By 1921 the United
States was interested in getting its own airship they ordered a british build version of
the high-flying German airships and during the final stress test at sea
the R38 snapped in two killing 44 sailors, the airships like
frame buckled under the pressure of high-speed turns despite considerable apprehension from
the allies the United States ordered an airship
from the cash-strapped Zeppelin company is part of war reparations the ship was to be delivered in 1922 in
the meantime the americans decided to build their own airship they would call it the Shenandoah, during
the war a German zeppelin came down in France and the
Allies had a chance to inspect it this was the L49, and as a result they generated some drawings, the Navy
acquired these drawings and basically built their own zeppelin in
philadelphia the technology was very much world
war one technology on the Shenandoah, there were some
American refinements and improvements and of course if flew with
helium not hydrogen helium is an inert gas first discovered
in a few Texas oil wells in 1922 the gas was in short
supply and very expensive, and even though
helium provided less live than hydrogen its primary advantage was that it does
not burn “The Golden Age Airships Has Begun”.. The
shenandoah’s first flight from Lakers- New Jersey marked the beginning of the
era of American rigit airships Americans were enchanted by the ship’s
flights around the country she was hailed as the forerunner to a
commercial passenger airship however the service was cut short, in 1925
the Shenandoah got caught in a severe Midwest thunderstorm and broke in half, 210 foot-long forward section
caring seven-man shot up to 10,000 feet lieutenant
commander Charles Rosendahl figured he could fly what was left of the airship
under the same principles as a balloon by dumping gasoline and
valving off helium he was able to fly what was left to the ship for almost two
hours before the forward section of the Shenandoah crashed but badly injured Rosendahl and his six
men survives 14 others died

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