Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Zeppelin Invented In Black Forest Germany

Ferdinand Zeppelin was born on July 8, 1838 on the German shores of Lake Constance (Konstanz on der Bodensee, bordered by Austria, Switzerland and Germany).

Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin (center) Photo 1863,
serving for the Union in the American Civil War

He entered the Prussian army in 1858 and went to the United States in 1863 to work as a military observer for the Union army. Zeppelin served in the Franco-German War of 1870-1871; he retired in 1891 with the rank of brigadier general.

The First Zeppelin

Zeppelin took keen interest in balloon flight and devoted himself to the design and construction of airships. Graf (Count) von Zeppelin would invent the rigid-frame airship (Luftschiff) in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The LZ1 made her maiden voyage on July 2, 1900. This ship had a rigid frame and served as the prototype of many subsequent models.

The first zeppelin airship consisted of a row of 17 gas cells individually covered in rubberized cloth; the whole was confined in a cylindrical framework covered with smooth surfaced cotton cloth. It was about about 420 ft long and 38 ft in diameter; the hydrogen-gas capacity totaled 399,000 cu ft.

The ship was steered by forward and aft rudders and was driven by two 15-hp Daimler internal-combustion engines, each rotating two propellers. Passengers, crew, and engine were carried in two aluminum gondolas suspended forward and aft. At its first trial, on July 2, 1900, the airship carried five persons; it attained an altitude of 1300 ft and flew a distance of 3.75 miles in 17 minutes.

Despite many setbacks, Zeppelin continued his research and in 1910 one of his airships provided the first commercial air service for passengers.

Zeppelin continued to improve his design and build airships for the German government. In June 1910, the Deutschland became the world's first commercial airship. The Sachsen followed in 1913.

Between 1910 and the beginning of World War I in 1914, German zeppelins flew 107,208 (172,535 kilometers) miles and carried 34,028 passengers and crew safely.

At the beginning of World War I, Germany had ten zeppelins. In the First World War war effort Zeppelins were built for the Germany navy. By 1918, 67 zeppelins had been constructed, and 16 survived the war.

During the war, the Germans used zeppelins as bombers. On May 31, 1915, the LZ-38 was the first zeppelin to bomb London, and other bombing raids on London and Paris followed. The airships could approach their targets silently and fly at altitudes above the range of British and French fighters.

However, they never became effective offensive weapons. New planes with more powerful engines that could climb higher were built, and the British and French planes also began to carry ammunition that contained phosphorus, which would set the hydrogen-filled zeppelins afire.

Several zeppelins were also lost because of bad weather, and 17 were shot down because they could not climb as fast as the fighters. The crews also suffered from cold and oxygen deprivation when they climbed above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).

At the end of the war, the German zeppelins that had not been captured were surrendered to the Allies by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and it looked like the Zeppelin company would soon disappear.

However, Eckener, who had assumed the company's helm upon Count Zeppelin's death in 1917, suggested to the U.S. government that the company build a huge zeppelin for the U.S. military to use, which would allow the company to stay in business.

Los Angeles US Navy Zeppelin 1924
See more ...
*USS Los Angeles (ZR-3)

The United States agreed, and on October 13, 1924, the U.S. Navy received the German ZR3 (also designated the LZ-126), delivered personally by Eckener. The airship, renamed the Los Angeles, could accommodate 30 passengers and had sleeping facilities similar to those on a Pullman railroad car.

The Los Angeles made some 250 flights, including trips to Puerto Rico and Panama. It also pioneered airplane launch and recovery techniques that would later be used on U.S. airships.

The Hindenburg flying over New York City on its way to
Lakehurst, New Jersey, May 6, 1937 shortly before blowing up.

After the war they were widely used in commercial flights. However, safety problems that led to accidents, including the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937, brought on the end of the zeppelin's popularity.

The Graf Zeppelin 1933 arriving
for the Chicago World's Fair

The World's Most Successful Airship

The Graf Zeppelin was the largest airship in the world when it was built, in the late 1920s. The Graf Zeppelin flew over 1 million miles, including the first circumnavigation of the globe via airship.

It visited the North Pole, circled the world and ran regular scheduled service from Germany to Brazil until the 1937 Hindenburg crash in New Jersey brought an end to passenger airship service.

Listen to a live recording of the disaster (2 sites) ...

*Hindenburg Disaster Recording 1
*Zeppelin Hindenburg Disaster Recording 2

The Zeppelin era came to a sudden end with the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. The Hindenburg (LZ129) had departed Frankfurt am Main on May 3 with 97 passengers and crew aboard.

Helium a non flameable alternative gas, was not used largely because the United States, the only source of helium in the world at the time, priced a fillup at $600,000. On May 6, 1937 the Hindenburg was approaching its mooring station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on its 11th round trip between Germany and The United States.

While landing in Lakehurst, the explosion of the hydrogen-filled airship killed 36 people. The captain of the LZ129, Max Pruss, was one of the survivors, but neither he nor anyone else could say for certain what caused the tragedy. (Pruss died in 1960.) Modern theories lean towards lightning or static electricity and the Zeppelin's highly flammable outer coating (not the hydrogen itself) as the cause.

Today's reborn Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH is hoping to open a new Zeppelin era with its smaller transport, the Zeppelin NT. Test flights began in 1997.

See more ...
*Modern German Zeppelin Airships
(German Site, Scroll down; Great photos)

*Zeppelin Museum Highlights
(German Site, more Great photos)

This next link you can see instant play videos of some exhibitions at the "German Museum" in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
*Videos Deutsches Museum


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