By:- Iqbal Nanjee
Man has always been fascinated by the flight of the Birds and has forever dreamed of soaring in the skies like the feathered animals. This dream could not be materialized until
Manned balloon flights became quite common on both sides of the
Airship or dirigibles (From the Latin “DIRIGERE”, meaning “to direct,” “to steer”) were basically balloons, shaped like a fish or a stubby cigar, with a power plant and a propelling mechanism, housed in one or more care located below the balloons. These care also carried accommodation for passengers. The dirigibles were categorized into three classes, according to their construction.
a] The non-rigid class, commonly known as the “Blimp” the one flown by Henri Giffard. In this class, the form of the balloon was maintained by the pressure of the gas. The first airship of this class to return to its starting point was the LE FRANCE, which was driven by electrically rotated propellers and which developed and flown by the French inventors, Charles Renaud and Arthur Krebs.
b] The desire to distribute the weight of the car, power plant, fuel and pay load over the length of the airship led to the development of the semi rigid class of the airships, in which a longitudinal keel structure was added to the bottom of the gas bag.
Although the semi rigid airships were used for long distance haul of passengers and cargo, there is no record of any airmail carried by them. The firs record of airmail being carried by airships became available after the rigid class of airships was invented, and these became operational in commercial aviation.
c] Due to the initiative and dedicated work of Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin and the group of men inspired by him the first rigid airship was constructed in 1900, and forever, thereafter, this class of airships has been “Zeppelins”. In the Zeppelins, unlike the non rigid and semi rigid classes, the outer envelop was completely supported, independent of the gas pressure by means of an elaborate hull structure. The prototype was 128 m long, with a diameter of 12m and had a hydrogen gas capacity of about 400,000 Cu.Ft, divided in 17 Gas Cells, individually covered in rubberized cloth and separated by wire bulk heads. It was steered by forward and aft rudders, and was driven by two 15 hp Diameter internal combustion engines, eath totating two propellers. Passengers, crew and engine were carried in two aluminium gondolas, suspended forward and aft. This prototype first flew a distance of 6 Km in 17 min on
With the successful flight of this prototype of the Zeppelin, the age of air transportation began. In 1908, count Zeppelin founded the LUFTSCHIFFBAU ZUPPELIN GmBH, or the Zeppelin Company as it was internationally known, for the construction and operation of the rigid class dirigibles. The company was headquartered tat Fredrichshfen on
In November, 1909, the Zeppelin Company formed a subsidiary company, the DEUTSCHELUFTSCHIFFARTS AG (Commonly known as the DELAG) to operate passenger flights. This was the first commercial airline in the world. The first commercial was made on
The British had been inspired by the German Zeppelins, and during the war, developed a series of rigid airships, beginning in 1915. In 1919, the British airship R-34, with a length of 196m and a hydrogen gas capacity of 1,980,000 Cu.Ft, made the first trans-atlantic flight, flying from East Fortune,
The driving force in the development and implementation of the Zeppelins as trans-oceanic commercial carriers and in resurrecting the DELAG in the Post War period was Dr. Hugo Eckener. Undaunted by the confiscation of the two airships by the Allies, he supervised the Zeppelin design development. In 1924,
The success of LOS ANGELES inspired Dr. Hugo Eckener to the designing and construction in 1928 of the LZ-127, christened the GRAF ZePPELIN, it was 235m. long, with a diameter of 30m, and a hydrogen gas capacity of 3,955,240 cu.ft., divided into 17 gas cells, within a hull of 28 longitudinal. Powered by five 12 cylinders, 550HP Mayback VLII engines, mounted in individual cars, it could attain a maximum speed of 128km/hr. and a cruising speed of 115 km/hr. and could stay aloft for 118 hours. With a 13,411 kg. Load. The luxuries and spacious accommodations for 24 to 354 passengers made GRAF ZEPPELIN a favourite means of trans-atlantic air travel. In nine years of service, the GRAF ZEPPELIN flew a total of more than 1 million miles in 530 flights, crossing the Atlantic 139 times to the North and South Americas, and making a complete trip in 1929 round the world, with stops only at Tokyo, Loss Angeles and Lakehurst, New Jersey.