When most people think of airships they think of Zeppelins.
Historically, German airships have dominated lighter-than-air
history. The Zeppelins captured the world's imagination with
their giant airships from 1900 to 1940.
Zeppelin was not the only actor on the stage however. Preceding
Count Zeppelin there was the example of David Schwartz whose
work is mostly forgotten today. And within a few years there
was competition from Johann Schutte and Major von Parseval.
Some of the design features of the Schutte craft were incorporated
into the Zeppelins during World War I when all German patents
were usurped by the government to further the cause of the war.
The Parsevals and Shuttes were eclipsed by the rapid progress
of the Zeppelins which flew higher, faster and further than
any other airships of the time.
After WWI, the giant Zeppelins became known for passenger service.
The Graf Zeppelin LZ127 was the marvel of the age and circumnavigated
the globe in 1929. It inaugurated transatlantic passenger service
and was subsequently joined by the Hindenburg LZ129. From Germany
they made regularly scheduled flights to both Brazil and the
United States. Even as the Hindenburg died in flames at Lakehurst,
New Jersey and new Graf Zeppelin II LZ130 was finishing construction.
It was used chiefly for flights within Germany. The LZ127 and
LZ130 were dismantled in 1940.
After the war various German companies built blimps for advertising
purposes. In 1998, Cargolifter
designed and eventually built a proof-of-concept
ship to move heavy loads over long distances. Regrettably,
the company became insolvement in 2003.
In 1997, the new Zeppelin
NT began flying and was subsequently certified for passenger
service. Today it is possible to book tourist flights in Germany
aboard Zeppelin NTs. The Zeppelin Company continues to build
these ships which have attracted international attention and
Germany has entered the 21st century with new visions for airships.