Hindenburg, Zeppelin, airship, Lakehurst, hydrogen lifting gas, German, disaster, cabin, engine nacelle, cockpit, gas bag, fuel tank, technology, history
History of the Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a maneuverable, rigid-framed airship. It was named after the designer, the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. His first airship took off in 1900. The new construction became popular before World War I. It was mainly used for commercial purposes (passenger transportation, postal delivery service). Later military Zeppelins appeared as well (bombing, reconnaissance). Civilian Zeppelins had their heyday after World War I. The enormous German Zeppelins of the 1930s (Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg) could easily cross oceans. The Hindenburg disaster in New Jersey in 1937 marked the end of the era of the airships. Zeppelins were reinvented in the 1990s, but today they are mainly used for scientific research purposes and luxury trips.
Shape and characteristics
The shape of the first Zeppelins was a longcylinder with tapered ends and multi-planed fins. The typical teardrop shape with cruciform fins was developed during World War I by the engineers at the Schütte-Lanz Luftschiffbau company. A relatively small compartment for passengers was built into the bottom of the frame, but they carried crew or cargo in the back of the hull (internally) for aerodynamic reasons. A gondola extended from the front part of the hull, used by the crew to maneuver the airship, control the engines, and communication. The most important features of Zeppelins were the excellent maneuverability, largepayloadcapacity and longrange. Zeppelins in the 1920s and 1930s were 200-250 m (656.2-820.2 ft) long and measured about 100,000 m³ (3,531,500 ft³) in volume, with a useful payload capacity of 50-60 tons and a service ceiling of 7,000-8,000 m (22,966-26,247 ft). Their range reached 10,000 kilometers (32,808 feet).
Construction and propulsion
The most important structural feature was the rigid metal framework consisting of longitudinal girders and rings. This made it possible for the Zeppelins to carry more payload and incorporate more and stronger engines than in the former, non-rigid type of airships. The framework contained several separate bags (cells) filled with hydrogen gas. Gas pressure valves played an important role in safety, by removing excess hydrogen. Later helium was used instead of hydrogen, as it was safer. Zeppelins were powered by at least four 260 hp engines (e. g. four 195 kW Maybach engines). The maximum speed of Zeppelins reached 130 km/h (80.8 mph).
A Zeppelin is a rigid, guided airship. It was named after the designer, the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Zeppelins became popular before World War I. They were used for civilian and military purposes as well. They had their heyday, however, during the 1930s. The first Zeppelins had cylindrical hulls, with the typical teardrop shape developed only later. Their most important structural feature was the rigid metal framework consisting of longitudinal girders and rings.
The framework contained several separate bags (or cells) filled with hydrogen or helium gas. This lighter-than-air gas kept the structure in the air. Zeppelins were powered by engines attached on the outside of the hull, in gondolas. There was also a gondola extending from the front bottom part of the hull, used by the crew to maneuver the airship, control the engines, and communicate. Vertical rudders and horizontal elevator fins were used for maneuvering. Fuel tanks, passenger cabins and other service rooms were built into the bottom of the frame.
The LZ 129 Hindenburg airship was named after the late Paul von Hindenburg, President of Germany, who died in 1934. The airship lent its name to an entire class of airships and made its maiden flights in 1936. The Nazis, already in power at that time, used the airship for propaganda missions, with the swastika painted on the rudders and the Olympic flag painted on its hull to popularize the Berlin Olympic Games.
This enormous structure was 245 m (803.8 ft) long and had a volume of 200,000 m³ (7,062,900 ft³). It was powered by four diesel engines, with a cruise speed of 125 km/h (77.7 mph). Its gas bags contained hydrogen. The airship could carry up to 70 passengers. But it was not the impressive technical data that made the Hindenburg famous.
During one of its Transatlantic trips in 1937, the airship caught fire and crashed over an airfield in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in the U.S., with many details of the circumstances still unexplained. 35 out of 97 people on board died in the accident - as well as one member of the ground crew for a total of 36 dead. The disaster marked the end of the airship era.