LTA South Africa
19 September 2005
DeBeers Searches for Diamonds
9 September 2005
Thanks to Sig Geist
Zeppelin NT in South Africa - An Update
Based on an article in Germany's Lake Constance print media,
September 08 was to be the day when the Africa-Zeppelin departed
for Jwaneng, a mining town in southern Botswana on its first
of several months-long diamond exploring missions for De Beers
Group of Companies.
The departure was preceded by the airship's arrival in Cape
Town, South Africa after a 22-day sea voyage on August 31,
2005 (reported elsewhere as September 05). Since then, the
airship was off-loaded successfully although unfavorable weather
conditions in port took extra time and slowed the assembly
of engines and empennage. Notwithstanding, the NT airship was
airborne a few days later. It completed a 50-minute test flight
and was then flown to a nearby military airfield. There, it
was fitted with diamond-sensing technology, that once aboard
the zeppelin was reported to be five-times more efficient than
The evening before the zeppelin's reported departure on
9/08, De Beers held a big reception for its VIP's where its
press officer Tom Tweedy called the richly emblazoned airship
the "workhorse" for
its diamond-seeking mission in Botswana. Most prominent among
the no fewer than six signs and logos painted on the envelope
is one whose undulating ribbon-like lettering spells out "Diamonds
for development in Africa" in multi-color along both sides
of the airship. Of course, the De Beers' "A diamond is
forever" moniker is not to be missed.
According to the "MBendi Information for Africa" website,
Botswana is the leading producer of gem quality diamonds
in the world, producing some 30.4 Mct in 2003 compared to
28.4 Mct in 2002. The diamond industry accounted for 83%
of export earnings within the country.
Diamond production in Botswana is dominated by Debswana, a
joint venture company owned by De Beers Investments (50%) and
the Government of Botswana (50%). Debswana has 3 operational
mines, Jwaneng is the youngest among them.
Based once more on the above article and its reliance on a
state of Hessia based media service, the for now two year agreement
with De Beers was reported to be highly profitable for the
airship's builder / parent Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH
(ZLT). Although De Beers reportedly declined to enter into
a profit sharing arrangement, ZLT's profit was mentioned to
amount to 5.5 million Euro (6.9 million USD).
20 December 2001
The Hamiltom Airship Company has ceased to exist --
31 Oct 2000
I haven't heard anything recently about The Hamiltom Airship
Company's activities. I assume they are attempting to
attract venture capital for their enterprise. ITM, their website
is very much worthwhile a visit.
25 Feb 1997
From the Cape Times (Johannesburg)
SA company to build world's largest airship
Construction of the world's largest airship, twice as large
as a B747 and codenamed " Nelson " is to start next month.
The maiden flight of the craft, a successor to those that
crossed the Atlantic from Europe to America in the 1930's,
is scheduled to take 30 passengers from Johannesburg to New
York at a speed of 160kph ( kilometers not knots )."It will
be cheap to run, economical for passengers in costs and safe,
"said designer Jonathon Hamilton, who is managing director
of the The Hamilton Airship Company (THAC) which is
building the airship with the backing of Denel Aviation. "Nelson"
has been designed as a rigid airship. Its construction comprises
a centre spine, surrounded by gasbags containing nonflammable
helium, and with a three storey gondola for carrying personneland
equipment . The spine is designed to be flexible in extreme
The airship will be powered by three 500 hp motors and will
cost R85 million to build . Asked if the airship would be
safe inview of the accident which destroyed the Hindenburg
60 years ago, Hamilton said : "this airship can afford to
lose power in all three engines and it will not fall out of
the sky." The Hindenburg caught fire while docking in New
York in 1937, but the THAC airship will be able to take off
and land like a helicopter, something the Hindenburg and other
early airships were unable to do. Denel said patents taken
out by THAC were "revolutionary, practical , and in Denel
Aviation engineering division's opinion , in a " world beating
class." " It will be a real boon to tourism - on the Johannesburg
to Sun City route, for instance, it could take up to 90 passengers,
flying at an altitude of 2000 metres, " said Hamilton. Flights
are envisaged to Durban, the Kruger National Park and other
tourist attractions, and it would also be suitable for international
relief measures. A military application is also being studied.
It is claimed the project will generate foreign exchange and
create many jobs. THAC and Denel are planning to enter the
airship in an Atlantic challenge against 15 other manufacturers
who are competing to be the first to cross the ocean by airship
since the Hindenburg. Among them is the Hindenburg's manufacturer,
Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, who are building a 75m ship, due
to fly for the first time in April.
Above verbatim from the newspaper - some journalistic hyperbole
and misinterpretation evident. This is all quite funny as
Mike Walden first alerted me to rumours about a South African
ship a few weeks back - my first thoughts were that it had
to be Denel but e-mail enquiries were met with a stunning
silence - until today - the same date as the above press release!
Anyway I have a telephone number for the project manager and
intend giving him a call tomorrow.
Some web addresses :
Cape Times newspaper group: http://www.inc.co.za/
27 Feb 1997
S.Africa to build world's biggest modern airship
JOHANNESBURG (Reuter) - A South African firm said Monday
it would build the world's biggest modern-day airship, twice
the length of a Boeing 747, and take tourists on a 10-day
cruise to New York.
The airship, which it hopes to name ``Nelson'' if President
Nelson Mandela approves, will travel at a leisurely 56 mph
on the 8,450 mile voyage from Johannesburg to New York via
Cape Verde, The Hamilton Airship Company said. It hopes Nelson,
132 yards long, will next year cross the Atlantic.
The state-owned Denel Aviation Corp., which is contracted
to build the airship from next month, said the design was
revolutionary and would overcome dangerous flaws that put
an end to commercial airship travel before World War II. The
three-engined ship will be filled with non-flammable helium,
be structured around a central, protected spine of flexible
carbon fiber, and be able to land like a helicopter. The earliest
airships used hydrogen, which erupted in a ball of flames
if ignited, and had to be moored to pylons when stationary.
Many suffered structural failure because of strains on their
external aluminium frames.
The South African firm's managing director, Johnathan Hamilton,
said his ship would cost $19.2 million to build, around a
quarter of it already pledged by a local bank and another
quarter by private investors. By comparison, a Boeing 737-400
which can carry 120 people, the same as the airship, costs
over $143 million, he said. The likeliest use once the airship
comes back home from New York is tourism around South Africa,
but it could also carry fruit and other cargo or serve as
a flying hospital or for firefighting and border patrols.
27 Feb 1997
Denel clarifies involvement in airship project by Stuart
Denel Aviation, quoted by The Star and other newspapers yesterday
as being the "backer" behind a new R85-million airship by
The Hamilton Airship Company (THAC), said last night its involvement
with the project was limited to developmental assistance.
Clarifying a statement by Denel spokesman Paul Holtzhausen
in which he said no agreement existed between Denel and THAC
for the final development or production of the airship, Denel
Aviation's CEO Pottie Potgieter admitted last night it was
concerned that readers of yesterday's report may misconstrue
the nature of Denel's involvement.
"We are not financial backers of the project," he said. "THAC
contracted our expertise to refine the design for the airship
Potgieter added that if THAC could come up with the finances
to complete the project, Denel would also wish to assist with
the next stages of the airship's development, including its
construction. Holtzhausen said THAC approached Denel last
year for help in the refinement of the design of a THAC prototype
airship. Denel prepared a proposal for design refinement and
delivered it to THAC.
THAC director Annemarie Roux said the project to construct
the world's largest airship which it is envisaged will transport
30 passengers from Johannesburg to New York within 10 days
would take place in three stages.
"Denel have been involved with the first phase, which included
refining our initial design. They have expressed strong support
for the project and said they are interested in being involved
in the next two phases, which will include further refining
and the initial construction of about 10 airships," she said.
THAC plans to enter the airship in an "Atlantic challenge"
against 15 other manufacturers, competing to be the first
to cross the ocean by airship since the Hindenburg caught
fire in New York in 1937.
March 4, 1997
PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF BEING TRANSPORTED, THEY WANT TO TRAVEL,
SAYS HIGH-FLYING SA DESIGNER OF REVOLUTIONARY AIRSHIP
(Johannesburg) A South African plans to take on the world's
best by building a super airship - twice the size of a B747
- which will glide gracefully around the world. It's called
Nelson, will cost R85 million and is a top contender in an
international race to come up with a new generation airship
to make the first Atlantic crossing It's creator, Jonathon
Hamilton, managing director of the Jhbg based THAC (The Hamilton
Airship Company) believes South Africa has an opportunity
to become a world leader in the resurgence of airship travel.
The Nelson should be thru its air trials in a year from now
and will embark on it's 10 day maiden voyage from Johannesburg
to New York.
Fresh-faced and enthusiastic, Mr Hamilton, 30, spent more
than a year fine-tuning his revolutionary design, which takes
advantage of modern materials and technology which earlier
airships lacked. But why should anybody want to bob about
in the air for days when they could go by plane in just hours
"I think people are sick of being transported. People want
to travel instead of being bolted into bus seats in a steel
tube, particularly when they are going on holiday.
"Imagine drifting over the Eiffel Tower, moving over the
Alps and eventually the Nile and Victoria Falls and arriving
in Johannesburg. "It might take three days, but you can at
least stop for a picnic at the pyramids," he says.
But his dream might not be shared by those who recall the
horror of the Hindenburg bursting into flame and crashing
to the ground in New York 60 years ago when airships were
all the rage. The difference, he says, is that the Nelson
relies on non-inflammable helium gas for buoyancy and even
if the three engines were to fail, it would still remain airborne.
The weak structure and the obvious dangers of flying about
in a hydrogen-loaded craft were in part responsible for the
demise of airships.
But Mr Hamilton says American fears of enemy craft capable
of carrying tons of explosives undetected, and blowing up
entire cities, led to a ban on the sale of helium in the run-up
to World War 2.
But that will all change, according to Mr Hamilton, who says
a US government investigation into airships concluded that
the world would need 1 000 airships in the next 10 years in
order to overcome existing and future transportation problems.
Roads and airports are not able to keep pace with the demand
for moving freight and people around the globe.
"Airships present a real alternative. They are cheaper and
quicker to build and fly". He says his Nelson is a strong
contender in an informal race involving 15 contenders from
10 countries, including the US, Canada, Britain, Germany and
Russia, all keen to come up with a craft to make the first
modern-day Atlantic crossing.
The Nelson is a rigid airship with a central spine, a tube
made of carbon fibre, encapsulated by a series of circular
Aviation experts regard its design as revolutionary, being
both rigid enough to fly at 160km/h and flexible enough to
withstand extreme weather conditions. Instead of having a
gondola suspended beneath the floating superstructure, the
accommodation is sandwiched between two helium envelopes forward
Comfort and style will be a strong feature of the three-deck
accommodation, with well-appointed cabins with their own ablutions,
and room service. A dining room, bar and lounge, with breathtaking
views of the world below, will make airship travel a truly
It can land and take off almost like a helicopter and does
not need landing pylons as earlier craft did. A harpoon is
fired into the ground to secure it on landing and its mass
of 29,5 tons prevents it from being blown about by bad weather,
Mr Hamilton said.
He said there was no shortage of takers, and during a radio
interview last week several callers wanted to book their seats.
Once Thac has come up with the financial guarantees for sub-contractors
Denel Aviation, the manufacturing of components will begin.
"Next year we plan to build five airships, and eight the
following year. We are confident we can get production time
down to six to seven weeks a ship".
Mr Hamilton believes airships will revolutionise eco-tourism,
particularly in this country with its vast parks.
On 25 Feb 1997:
85,000,000.00 South African Rand = 19,235,500.00 US Dollar
The currency converter I used is at http://www.olsen.ch/cgi-bin/exmenu
so you can convert to your favorite currency.