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Announcements 2007

30 April 2007
Thanks to Sig Geist!

Zeppelin Museum receives rare award 
Submitted by Sig Geist, Mendenhall, PA

On April 22, 2007 Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen was awarded the rare title "FAI-Recommended-Museum" by the "Federation Aeronautique Internationale" (FAI).  Worldwide, only 24 museums have been honored this way.  The title is indicative of outstanding collections in aviation and especially valuable exhibitions that further educate the public, but especially the young people in the area of air and space travel.  Over the years the Zeppelin Museum has drawn attention to itself through a series of exhibitions on the history of aviation.  FAI, founded 1905 in Paris is an international, non-governmental, non-profit organization that worldwide organizes and coordinates activities in the areas of air and space travel in some 100 member countries. 

05 April 2007
Thanks to Sig Geist!

„News from Friedrichshafen“
Composed and submitted by Sig Geist, Mendenhall, PA
Photographs © ZLT

Zeppelin NT to measure atmosphere

ZLT © Hauling out prior to Test Flight, Friedrichshafen
Hauling out prior to Test Flight, Friedrichshafen © ZLT

By way of a mid-March 2007 press information, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT) announced the successful completion of further test flights with its mission-modified Zeppelin NT. The airship will be used as an aerial platform to measure the lower atmosphere during a 10-day period in July 2007. The project will be carried out in cooperation with Juelich Research Center's Institut fuer Chemie und Dynamik der Geosphaere. The project goal are tests — never before carried out — for the distribution of trace gases and radicals in the lowermost layers of the atmosphere. Specifically for this mission, Zeppelin NT was equipped for the first time with a top-mounted platform accommodating an extensive array of measuring devices. Support for the platform load is provided by the airship's internal framework. Capturing multi-directional wind currents, a slender boom (see photos) was installed in the nose of the cabin. Altogether, for the test flights Zep NT was fitted with 600 kilogram (1,320 lbs.) worth of measuring equipment and an extra eight kilowatt of power.

ZLT © Start of Test Flight, Friedrichshafen
Start of Test Flight, Friedrichshafen © ZLT

As part of the above press information ZLT noted that together with Juelich's Research Center they are not only entering technologically new ground, but also new areas in the field of climate research. Declared ZLT's development manager: "Our test flights have demonstrated that Zeppelin NT's 'Platform' mode offers a suitable infrastructure for this and additional complex demands. Preparations for deployment in July went well".

The press information concluded by stating the above tests are an integral part of the TRACKS Project. For additional info, see the article Zeppelin NT, a new Platform for Atmospheric Studies in the Planetary Boundary Layer where the whole report may also be downloaded as a 8.5MB PDF document.

01 February 2007
Thanks to Rick Zitarosa!

U.S. Navy MZ-3A airship #167811 assigned to Squadron VX-20 LTAV Detachment NAES Lakehurst, NJ has the call sign "WaterBug 811" and the pilots (two civilian, two Navy) have individual call signs reflecting the initials of the " L*T*A*V" (Lighter Than Air Vehicle) Unit:

"WaterBug Lima"
"WaterBug Tango"
"WaterBug Alpha"
"WaterBug Victor"

They are currently taking advantage of any/all flying opportunities that the weather affords. Navy airships in the 1940's and 1950's used to operate frequently in bad winter weather. Since this airship is a modified commercial model and they are still in the "Test/Training" phase have decided to move forward cautiously with the ship usually housed in the hangar well in advance of snow, ice or high wind warnings.

30 January 2007
Thanks to Jim Smith!

Diamonds from above: How a Zeppelin could hunt for gems in the north

Nathan Vanderklippe in Vancouver, Financial Post

The world's biggest diamond producer wants to use an airship that's nearly as long as a football field to slowly float over Canada's tundra and muskeg to discover diamonds in the remotest corners of the North.

A 75-metre-long helium-filled Zeppelin could do the work of 50 ground crews, De Beers Canada Inc. president Jim Gowans said yesterday. The company has already put serious thought into how the plan would work, from shipping it across the Atlantic in the hold of a steamliner to housing it in a massive hangar to protect it from Arctic winds.

De Beers, which is accelerating production schedules for some of its mines and is planning a hefty increase to its Canadian exploration budget this year, has had considerable success since it began using the system in Africa in 2005.

Mr. Gowans said it has proven to be three to four times more effective at peeking beneath the Earth's surface than a competing technology used by BHP Billiton Plc., owner of the Northwest Territories Ekati mine.

To see if it would work in Canada, a Zeppelin advance party travelled to the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and northern Ontario last year.

"We've just recently got a report back that says it would be feasible to do it. So now we're trying to figure out how to do that and the costs that are involved," said Mr. Gowans.

The new-model Zeppelin's slow speed and vibration-free stability give it a significant advantage over helicopters and aircraft, which are both commonly used in exploration. Using a proprietary De Beers sensor suite, the Zeppelin can detect hints of diamond presence up to 250 metres below the surface by measuring minute changes in Earth's gravitational pull.

Most gravity measurements have until now been made by crews hauling delicate instrumentation across the North's often-rugged terrain. The Zeppelin works much faster.

"If you can imagine trundling over the snow with this instrument versus gliding over it in an airship, that gives you an understanding," said De Beers Canada exploration vice-president Martin Doyle.

However, it would take at least a year to build an airship for use in Canada -- the company's African model is too busy covering 10,000 square kilometres a year in Botswana to make the flight here -- and the significant hangar infrastructure needed may keep the project from ever leaving the ground.

The company is nevertheless boosting its exploration spending to $47.5-million this year, a 50% increase over 2006, and Mr. Gowans said De Beers has accelerated its construction schedule for both its Snap Lake and Victor projects, each of which could ship their first diamonds several months ahead of schedule. Snap Lake, located 220 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, was set to begin production in October, 2007; Victor, 90 kilometres east of Attawapiskat, Ont., a year later.

Each mine will cost about $1-billion to build, and together they will produce two million carats a year.

In its search for more rich deposits, De Beers has already taken samples from 40% of Canada's most prospective diamond territory.

The Zeppelin could be an ideal way to search the unexplored remnants, said Mr. Gowans, who also said he expects more big finds in Canada, which already produces $1.6-billion of diamonds a year.

"There's some still outstanding areas," he said. "I just keep looking at the Precambrian shield and saying, well there's 1.5-million square miles in the N.W.T. and if we've covered it all I'd be surprised." © National Post 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

30 January 2007
Thanks to Jim Smith!

Where Has All the Helium Gone?
by Leslie Theiss, Manager, BLM Amarillo (TX) Field Office

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a major supplier of crude helium to refiners in the United States, who market and sell pure helium throughout the world. Managing the nation’s "federal helium reserve" was a quiet federal program until 2006 when temporary shortages made news around the world.

For 350 days last year, the BLM’s crude helium enrichment facility was operating at full capacity, supplying more than 6 million cubic feet a day or 2.1 billion cubic feet per year.

As demand for helium is rising, supplies of crude helium are tightening. Our agency’s role in helping meet the demand by refiners is expanding even though ‘our’ crude is sold at a Congressionally mandated price that is higher than most private sources of crude.

We knew helium hit the big time last fall when Jay Leno included a joke in his monologue that went something like this:

The American Helium Association announced there’s a shortage of helium until December. In fact there might not be enough helium for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. When asked why there was shortage they responded by saying (in a high pitched voice) “We have no idea.”

[BLM disclaimer: Inhaling helium is not a good idea. Because helium is less dense than air, inhaling it creates the potential for collapsed lungs. Really.]

Besides its use in party balloons, helium is essential for things that require its unique properties – its inertness, its incredibly low "boiling point" and its high thermal conductivity. Helium is used to pressurize liquid propellants used by the space shuttle and in the semiconductor/computer chip manufacturing process. Liquid helium is used to cool magnets used in MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) equipment.

Sounds boring until you need it.

Helium was pretty much unknown before the twentieth century. It was first discovered in natural gas in 1903 when an exploratory well in Kansas produced a gas that "refused" to burn. The only economical source of helium is from natural gas, and some of the richest sources are under the Panhandle of Texas.
BLM's Crude Helium Enrichment Facility near Amarillo, Texas. The facility provides crude helium to refiners that suply about about 40% of U.S. helium production.

A federal helium program was created in 1925 to ensure that the gas would be available to the government for defense needs. Over time, it evolved into a program to supply the government with refined helium for research and aerospace uses.

By the 1990s, the demand for helium by the private sector was ballooning and far surpassed government needs. Congress decided that the feds didn’t need to be in the business of supplying refined helium to U.S. users.

The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 redefined the program’s mission as operating a crude helium storage reservoir and pipeline system, and providing crude helium (enriched to about 80 percent helium) to private refiners.
So why is the United States facing supply disruptions and temporary shortages?

The short answer is that demand is up and several overseas helium plants that were expected to be up and running in 2006 were delayed and down. Throw in things like the New Year’s storm in Kansas and Oklahoma that damaged power lines to two major refiners, and scheduled plant maintenance at other U.S. helium facilities, and Houston, we have a problem.

So what about the BLM — are we holding up our end of the bargain?

Our Cliffside Gas Field, 15 miles northwest of Amarillo, serves as the government’s reserve for helium. The field and BLM’s helium enrichment plant supply crude helium used in about 40 percent of U.S. helium production – and almost 35 percent of the world’s helium production.

The BLM is selling and delivering more helium than ever before but supplies remain tight. We took our helium enrichment plant down for several days last summer when a compressor failed, and 10 days for annual plant maintenance in November, temporarily reducing deliveries of crude helium to refiners on the pipeline. BLM also had to reduce deliveries of crude helium during the week of January 15, 2007, when its plant experienced an unexpected shut down due to severe weather.

However, for 350 days last year, the BLM’s crude helium enrichment facility was operating at full capacity, supplying more than 6 million cubic feet a day or 2.1 billion cubic feet per year. We can’t increase production because this would result in adverse impacts to the gas field, wells, compressors and other equipment.

The amount of helium offered for sale by the BLM to private industry over the past four years was 2.1 billion cubic feet (bcf) each year. The amount of helium purchased ranged from 0.7 bcf in 2004 to 1.6 bcf in 2006. The BLM delivers crude helium to refiners along the Helium Conservation Pipeline; deliveries ranged from 1.3 bcf in 2003 to 2.1 bcf in 2006 (including reserves from previous years).

The bottom line in terms of helium supply is that there is very little excess helium refining capacity, and domestic supplies of crude helium are growing ever tighter. Until overseas plants are fully online and/or additional plants are built, we’re potentially facing additional supply disruptions, if not shortages.

The Bureau of Land Management is committed to providing its share of crude helium to the marketplace, and will continue to do so.

Go to the article link for more helium articles.

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This site was created, written and is maintained by John Dziadecki 1995-2014. Images and quotes that are not the author's remain in the copyright of the originator. The information contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Additions and corrections are welcomed! Please send comments, suggestions and possible links to Last update: 31 April 2007