An airship is a kind of aircraft. Its peculiarity is that it is lighter than air. The design is a balloon connection with a power plant. The movement of the airship is regulated by means of steering wheels. Due to this, the ship can move in any desired direction.
It is believed that the airship was invented by Jean Baptiste Meunier. According to his project, an ellipsoid filled with gas was controlled by propellers, they had to be rotated by hand by 80 people. But the idea was developed and realized only in 1852 by Henri Giffar. And in 1884 the first completely controlled free flight took place.
For a long time, airships were considered fragile and short-lived. In place of the soft-design apparatus, the airships of the hard type gradually came. The construction and development of such models were associated with the name of Count von Zeppelin.
During the First World War, airships were used for military purposes, as bombers and scouts. But it quickly became clear that this was futile. They hurt a good target, they were for airplanes.
The golden age of airships came in the 1920s-1930s. These vehicles made long flights, transported dozens of passengers. But from 1937, the interest of a man in airships began to drop sharply. The fault of this was the collapse of the huge airliner “Hindenburg”.
Today interest in airships is growing, but the scope of their use remains limited. These devices are used for advertising purposes, they drive tourists, observe traffic, etc. In any case, airships remain a curiosity, surrounded by myths. We will try to debunk them.
All large airships are explosive.
This myth emerged, thanks to a series of high-profile disasters that occurred with airships in the 1930s. The most revealing was the explosion of the “Hindenburg” in 1937, when 35 people were killed. But in reality even then such devices began to switch from cheap, but dangerous hydrogen, to expensive and inaccessible helium. This inert time is considered noble due to its stability and security. It gives a smaller lift than hydrogen, but still remains much lighter than air. For the dirigible properties of helium is enough to fly. And Hindenburg simply could not use new gas because of the embargo imposed by America on its supply to fascist Germany. And the “Hindenburg” disaster was caused by the pilot. It is worth noting that only 2 of the 35 people died directly from the fire – the rest were destroyed when they fell to the ground.
The Zeppelins were invented by the Nazis.
Airships of this type were built by Count von Zeppelin long before the Nazis came to power. The first flight of the hard type device of this inventor took place back in 1900. And not only the Germans have mastered this design. In the United States and Great Britain, several large, rigid airships were built and flown independently of the Germans. The British R100 and R101 were the largest aircraft in the world at the time of its appearance. Each such airship transported its passengers in luxurious conditions. The US built two giant rigid airships, Akron and Macon, which even acted as flying aircraft carriers. The famous German balloonist Hugo Ekener, who worked on the construction of the Zeppelins, was a principled opponent of the Nazi regime. With the arrival of the fascists to power in Germany, they were able to take control of Zeppelin’s enterprise and use airships for their propaganda purposes, singing out the power of the country. But in the end it was the Nazis who destroyed the last remaining airships in the country.
Soft and rigid airships are not fundamentally different.
The very definition of an airship implies that the controlled apparatus will be lighter than air. There are three versions of the design of airships. It can be soft, semi-rigid and rigid. In the first type, the outer shell serves as a shell for the gas. The shape of such a device is formed by the pressure of the carrier gas.In rigid airships, the external form is unchangeable and is provided by a metal or wooden frame. On it the fabric is stretched. The gas is located inside in bags of impenetrable matter. This design allows you to get enough space inside the frame, and the carrier gas can be divided into several sections. In rigid airships, internal compartments can be located inside the casing so as to provide better traction and a lower noise level for passengers. Semi-rigid construction was a compromise – the frame was created only partial, not giving the shell change.
Airships are unable to withstand bad weather.
Problems with flights in conditions of bad weather have small non-rigid airships. There are several known cases when large vehicles encountered severe squalls and passed through them without problems. The success of German Zeppelins in severe weather conditions was due to good piloting skills and the very design of the vehicles. British and American hard dirigibles felt worse in conditions of bad weather, but here both piloting errors and imperfect design played a role. To date, there are two main improvements, which reduce the dependence of the devices on the weather. First of all, technologies for tracking and forecasting weather have improved. More powerful engines also appeared. The combination of these factors helps the airships to calmly pass through the storm or simply avoid it. The improvement of flight instruments, methods of piloting and materials also increases the reliability of modern rigid airships. Bad weather is dangerous for the vehicles, not even in flight, but in the process of take-off or landing. It is in improving the landing procedures and see the further development of airships. In the case of bad weather, these vehicles can delay takeoff or landing, as planes do.
Airships are too slow and bulky.
Compared to airplanes, most other modes of transport will be considered slow. But many will be surprised to learn that the airship “Hindenburg” could develop a maximum speed of 135 km / h. Modern airships are limited by a bar at 90 km / h. It is believed that further evolution of such devices will allow even to beat the record set by the “Hindenburg”. The technology of weather tracking will help you to find tailwind, which will allow you to accelerate and use fuel effectively. The old rigid airships were quite fast, given their size. But they were still cumbersome. Hundreds of people were needed to take off or land. Today the situation can change with the use of automation, powerful power plants with multidirectional parking capabilities and other modern technologies.
Airships are an unsuccessful branch of aviation.
Despite working with unsafe hydrogen, many German Zeppelins were successful long before the “Gindeburg” of the company “Tsepellin”. At the same time, there were no deaths of passengers. As a military weapon, any aircraft filled with explosives, in fact, can not be a good idea. But when using incombustible helium, the situation changed. In any case it was the Zeppelins that were the first to be used by commercial airlines. So, the German corporation of travel by airships DELAG, was born on November 16, 1909. Until 1914, she completed a 1,588 flight and transported 34028 passengers without serious injury to them. The airships crossed the Atlantic without transplant from continental Europe to mainland America. So the first transatlantic commercial flights appeared. For 9 years of its operation since 1928 LZ127 Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights, breaking with passengers 13.1 million miles. And again there were no injuries in people. This airship 144 times crossed the ocean, while such an airplane trip was considered a deadly risk. In those years of the heyday of the rigid airships, they were far superior to aircraft in many respects.These vehicles flew much further and could carry more passengers in more comfortable conditions. Early aircraft fell into accidents more often than airships. The difference was only in public perception. If a small plane was falling somewhere, it was considered normal, part of the risk of the first aviators. But the collapse of a large airship became an event in itself. If this mode of transport were allowed to develop in the same way as to aircraft, then today we would see numerous rigid airships – fast, comfortable and efficient. After the disaster that happened with the “Ginderburg” world community began to perceive the airships as something unsafe. The development of the industry was suspended.
Airships can not compete with airplanes.
It is not clear why airships should compete with airplanes in general. These modes of transport carry out completely different functions. Due to their smoothness, airships can take off and land vertically, hang in the air and spend less fuel at the same time. For such devices, no significant infrastructure is required, as for an aircraft. The airship can bring loads to any point on the surface of the Earth. For most aircraft today, a large amount of fuel is required, resource-intensive airports with a long runway. A large airship has the potential to transport heavier and bulky goods than an airplane can. Its advantage is in speed, whereas its competitor has it in its logistics universality. Because of aircraft, the number of trans-ocean passenger ships has decreased. There remain smaller ocean liners, whose appearance is due to the superior speed of the aircraft. And passenger ships are increasingly moving to the category of cruise, doing recreational tasks. With the advent of aviation, the ships did not disappear, they simply changed their role. The same happened with airships. Unlike an airplane where you have to sit most of the flight, you can watch the airship on the wide windows as if on a stage, stand at a table, go out to the dance floor, have dinner and drink drinks, and then fall asleep all night in your cabin. At the same time, sensations favorably differ from analogues. There are practically no vibrations, noises, turbulence on the dirigible. On huge ships, such as the “Hindenburg”, many passengers were amused by the game. They put the handle vertically, balancing it and holding it in that position. And she could not fall for a long time.
For their sizes, airships are too low in the sky.
Large rigid airships, like the “Hindenburg”, had an interior space that was invisible from the outside. It could accommodate enough cargo and passengers. They were real flying ships, which allowed you to travel with comfort. The passengers slept in their cabins, the cooks were cooked in fully equipped kitchens, people walked, read, and ate in the dining rooms. Entire internal compartments were assigned for cargo. The same “Hindenburg”, “Graf Zeppelin 2” and British R100 and R101 and new models of large rigid airships could lift up to 100 people, including crew members. On board there were many mechanisms for comfortable travel, a large supply of provisions. Two American zeppelin-aircraft carrier Akron and Macon could carry, respectively, 5 and 9 biplanes together with the crew and passengers. German, English and American developers have thought about creating even larger machines that would carry more cargo and people. The more airships increase in size, the more efficient their carrying capacity becomes. This is because the ratio of surface area to volume decreases, and the amount of space available increases. The material required for the gas will weigh less relative to the total mass of the airship as its size increases. Given the today’s more durable and light modern materials, airships can become truly massive. Their potential is seen more than any of the aircraft ever built.The airship consumes a lot of fuel.
It is known that the “Hindenburg” moved with the help of 4 engines. The average consumption of diesel fuel for each was 130 liters per hour. Consumption seems huge when compared to a car. But since then, technology has gone far ahead. In 2006, the world’s largest airship Spirit of Dubai departed from London to Dubai. The ship flew at an altitude of 500 meters with a cruising speed of 50-80 km / h. At the same time, the engine consumed about 30 liters per hour. As a result, during a week of flight this giant consumes as much fuel as Boeing-767 needs only for taxiing from the hangar to the runway. Modern airships have become very economical.
Airships have a limited application altitude.
Large giant airships that transported passengers at the beginning of the last century had a maximum height of about 2000 meters. On average, flights were made at an altitude of 500-1500 meters. Today, there is no sense to rise higher considering the intensive flights of civil aviation. But even during the First World War the ceiling of German military airships was up to 8000 meters. Today the question of creating unmanned dirigibles, which could ascend to 30 kilometers and provide from there communication and observation of huge territories, is increasingly raised. At the same time for air defense systems such devices will be invulnerable, and at a price much cheaper than satellites. Americans are engaged in the development of stratospheric airships, which could rise to 80 kilometers, making, in fact, a suborbital flight.