I would greatly appreciate it if you would please send changes,
corrections, information, and updates to me
so that I may keep this section accurate and current. I do
not know everything and would appreciate your input.
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Rumor has it that you can try begging
a ride from various airship crews that fly the advertising
blimps. Forget it. Generally these airships are
strictly commercial use only so your chances are mostly extremely (less
What is an "airship"?
An airship is a self-powered, lighter-than-air craft
with means of controlling its flight path.
Who invented the
Of the hundreds of inventors granted patents for early airship
(and airplane) designs and variations, few succeeded in building
or flying their craft.
1784 > J.B.M.
Meusnier made several suggestions on how to improve the
handling and flight characteristics: changing the shape of
the balloon from a sphere to the shape of a football in order
to reduce air resistance and also establish a front and rear;
an envelope made of several compartments and a passenger car
shaped like a boat attached to the bottom of the airship.
1852 > Henri Giffard invented the powered navigable airship
-- a cigar-shaped balloon 114 feet long and 39 feet in diameter.
The airship was powered by a three- horsepower steam engine
which could propel it at a speed of approximately 5 mph.
1884 > Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs built the La France
airship which featured an electric motor and improved steering
1898 > Alberto Santos Dumont (1873-1932) was the first
to construct and fly a gasoline-powered airship. On 19 October
1901 he circled the Eiffel Tower winning a 100,000 franc prize.
1900 > Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's flew the world's
first rigid airship, the LZ-1.
1910 > June 22nd, Zeppelin's "Deutschland" became
the world's first commercial airship.
1929 > LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin" round-the-world
What's the difference
There are three
rigid (having an internal framework, such
as the USS
semi-rigid (those having a rigid keel running the
envelope length, such as the Norge or Italia or the new
non-rigid (having no internal framework, such as
the present Goodyear fleet
-- Eagle, Stars & Stripes, Spirit of Akron).
And, there are hybrids.
In non-rigids, the internal pressure of the lifting gas
(non-flammable helium) maintains the shape of the envelope.
Internal air compartments -- ballonets -- are inflated or
deflated with air to compensate for ambient pressure differences.
These airships are commonly referred to as blimps.
What are the characteristics
"Helium is next to hydrogen in density, being about
one-seventh the weight of air. Stated another way, 1,000 cubic
feet of hydrogen at 32 degrees [fahrenheit] temperature,
at sea level, will lift 75.1 pounds while the same volume
of helium will lift 69.6 pounds."
The Story of the Airship by Hugh Allen
6th ed.: Akron -- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Helium, a by-product of natural gas production, has a lifting
capacity of 1.02 kg/m3 (0.0640 lb/ft3).
Cost: US$50 - US$70/MCF (1000 cubic feet)
Helium Program: The Reaction Over An Inert Gas
Is there a hydrogen
Yes. At the American Hydrogen Association web
See also, Powerball Technologies.
How do airships
Magic and mirrors? No. Click
How do I get an
airship pilot's certification?
From what I gather, this is mainly a matter of on-the-job
training. Having earned your pilot's license, your best
bet is to contact an airship
manufacturer and/or operator and tell them you want
to be an airship pilot. If accepted, you will enter a training
program which will lead to airship certification. Upon attainment
of your Alta certification you will then offer me a ride!
AIRSHIP TRAINING (Atlantis 2005) is a compilation
of several old LTA Manuals and the weather is generously
Hugo Eckener's (1919) DELAG Pilot Operation Manual for the
BODENSEE appears in the back of Doug Robinson's 1964 book
LZ129 HINDENBURG (Arco Publishers, 1964.) Eckener being
something of a "Weather Guru," his has a lot of
specifics ("squalls" "before entering a cloud" "Atmospheric
Influences and Disturbances" ) with much of the information
reconfigured from Eckener's stint as Civilian Director of
Airship Pilot Training with the German Navy in World War
More great reading can be found in RIGID AIRSHIP MANUAL (U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1927) in which "Aerology" is
extensively covered (there also see mt to be a few pointers
that are "lifted" from Eckener's dissertations.)
and operates airships?
Several companies are actively building airships for
sale, while others are building experimental prototypes. Another
group of companies lease and operate airships for business clients.
For a full list of names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses,
web links, etc. click here.
How much does it
cost to rent a blimp?
It varies depending upon the size of the ship, but
expect around US$175,000/mo for a small (130 ft.) ship.
How much does it
cost to build a blimp?
Again, it varies depending upon the size of the ship,
but expect around US$2,000,000 for a small (130 ft.) ship.
Who paints blimps?
Well, for one, Burt
Dodge who uses a special formulation produced in France
by International Celomer. The paint is supplied in 2-gallon
containers, mixed in a 4-2-l ratio: four parts paint, two parts
hardener and one part dilutent.
Where can I find
Canadian Museum of Science and Technology
Within the archives they
have a large number of Blue Prints of Airships! (Tangential: R100
in Canada pdf.)
If you want serious material about Italian airships you
Centro Documentazione Umberto Nobile
00062 Vigna di Valle, Roma, Italy
A 6ft.-long (2m.) 3-view drawing of the USS AKRON is available
from the MAPS Air Museum gift shop for $10 US, including
& handling in the US. Write to:
MAPS AIR MUSEUM
5359 Massillon Road
North Canton, OH 44720
Where can I find
information about airship hangars?
James R Shock: American Airship Bases &
Atlantis Productions -- Edgewater, Florida -- 1996:
C. Dean (Editor): Housing the Airship
Architectural Association -- London -- 1989 -- ISBN
Dirigibili di Augusta / Augusta Airship Hangar:
Hangar e il suo Parco / Airship Hangar and its Park
Home to Europe's one reinforced cement airship
For historical information on the Cardington Sheds:
c/o Norman Pritchard
75 Albany Road
Old Windsor, Berks. SL4 2QD
Mike Rentell, of the Airship
Association may be of help, too. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The association keeps track of current airship and related
technology in the UK and offers specialist books on the
The Royal Aeronautical Society Library has reference to
quite a number of US, UK and German hangar photographs.
Patrick Abbott: Airship: The Story of R-34
2nd ed.: Studley -- Brewin Books -- 1994
Geoffrey Chamberlain: Airships - Cardington
Lavensham -- T. Dalton Publishers -- 1984
Ian Bunyan: R-34: Twice Across the Atlantic
The National Museums of Scotland -- 1989
Gordon Kinsey: Pulham Pigs
Lavensham -- T. Dalton Publishers -- 1988
Midland Publications is a good mail-order source
for such aviation books if you do not wish to order
them from their individual publishers. See Midland's
advertisement in any popular aviation magazine like "Fly
Has an airship ever
moored at the Empire State Building?
No mooring ever took place to the Empire State Building
-- all those mooring photos are composite images. The whole
story is covered in Jim Shock's AMERICAN AIRSHIP BASES AND FACILITIES.
What blimp holds
the all-time record for continuous time aloft?
The ZPG blimp at Pensacola is the ZPG-2, BuNo 141561,
famous as the "Snowbird" record-setting blimp, aloft for 264.2
hours and 9,448 miles unrefueled under the command of CDR Jack
R. Hunt, 04-15 March 1957. -- Eric Brothers
How fast can an
The LZ127 & 129 and ZRS4/5 cruised under power
at 80+ mph. With a strong tail wind, it is said the LZ129 approached
100 mph in transatlantic crossings.
Where can I find
more airship FAQs?
& Blimp Resources
What material held
the lifting gas?
In the early 1900s, cattle gut skins. Late in World War One,
some of the German Navy "height climbers" even used SILK in
place of cotton, to get maximum weight reduction from the
use of the skinned cells (and, on occasion, cattle skins were
not available and any number of inferior gut was used, as
well as rubberized fabric, though this created static electricity
and rubber was chronically short in Germany.)
The SHENANDOAH used approximately 500,000 (total) skins to
line her gas cells. The GRAF ZEPPELIN used about 800,000 skins
and the later gas cells for the LOS ANGELES and GRAF ZEPPELIN,
as well as ALL of those of AKRON, MACON, HINDENBURG and LZ130
used NO SKINS AT ALL, as a new process utilizing lightweight
cotton fabric impregnated with viscose-latex and (later) gelatin-latex
compounds replaced the use of "skin cells."
Is there an LTA
The closest thing we have to a professional organization,
the LTA section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and
Astronautics (AIAA). The AIAA publishes a wealth of information
on materials and systems. No, LTA is not the Institute's main
focus, but they have held twelve (count 'em, twelve) professional/academic
conferences on LTA Systems Technology over the last two and
a half decades. And yes, they do have a Web Site where papers
are indexed and the abstracts can be searched:
The 1995 Clearwater conference featured a presentation
by Tom Rodriguez on FAA certification; paper number AIAA-95-1607-CP
(you can order it online). It included an exhaustive index
(2+ pages, double column) of the Airship Design Criteria,
FAA Document P-8110-2. This doc can be obtained from the
Small Airplane Directorate (ACE-110)
Federal Aviation Administration
601 East 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Also available is another FAA doc: AC 21.17-1A, "Type Certification
-- Airships." This AC can be obtained from the
General Services Section
Washington, DC 20590
A the end of his paper, Rodriguez welcomed contact from
the LTA community regarding certification. His primary
responsibility is structures. His number is 206-227-2779.
The paper's co-author, Carla Worthey, whose primary responsibility
is as a flight test engineer, can be reached at 404-305-7364.
Both of these numbers are now three years old and may
be out of date.