An airship is a type of aircraft. Thanks 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, the ellipsoid filled with gas was controlled by propellers, they had to be rotated manually by 80 people. But the idea was developed and implemented only in 1852 by Henri Giffard. And in 1884 the first fully controlled free flight took place.
For a long time, airships were considered fragile and short-lived. Airships of the hard type gradually replaced the apparatus of soft design. The design and development of such models were associated with the name of Count von Zeppelin.
During the First World War, airships began to be used for military purposes, as bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. But it quickly became clear that this was futile. They were a painfully good target for the planes.
The golden age of airships began in the 1920s and 1930s. These devices made long flights, carrying dozens of passengers. But since 1937, man's interest in airships began to decline sharply. The reason for this was the collapse of the huge Hindenburg air liner.
Today, interest in airships is growing, but their scope remains limited. These devices are used for advertising purposes, ride tourists, monitor road 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 appeared thanks to a series of high-profile disasters that happened to airships in the 1930s. The most significant was the explosion of the "Hindenburg" in 1937, when 35 people died. 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 less lift than hydrogen, but still much lighter than air. For an airship, the properties of helium are enough to fly. And "Hindenburg" simply could not use the new gas because of the American embargo on its supply to Nazi Germany. And the Hindenburg crash was the fault of the pilot. It is worth noting that only 2 out of 35 people died directly from the fire - the rest broke when falling 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 a hard-type apparatus of this inventor took place back in 1900. And not only the Germans have mastered this design. Several large rigid airships were built and flew independently of the Germans in the United States and Great Britain. The British R100 and R101 were the largest aircraft in the world at the time of their introduction. Each such airship carried its passengers in luxurious conditions. The United States built two giant rigid airships, Akron and Macon, which even acted as flying aircraft carriers. The famous German aeronaut Hugo Ekener, who worked on the construction of the Zeppelin, was a principled opponent of the Nazi regime. With the advent of the Nazis to power in Germany, they were able to take control of the Zeppelin enterprise and use airships for their propaganda purposes, glorifying the power of the country. But in the end, it was the Nazis who destroyed the last remaining airships in the country.
Soft and hard airships are not fundamentally different. The very definition of an airship implies that the controlled vehicle will be lighter than air. There are three types of airship designs. It can be soft, semi-rigid, and hard. In the first type, the outer shell also serves as a shell for the gas. The shape of such an apparatus is formed by the pressure of the carrier gas. In rigid airships, the external shape is unchangeable and is provided by a metal or wooden frame. The fabric is stretched over it. The gas is located inside in bags of impenetrable material. This design allows enough space inside the frame, and the carrier gas can be divided into several sections. In rigid airships, internal compartments can be positioned inside the hull to provide better thrust and less noise for passengers. The semi-rigid design was a compromise - the frame was created only partially, preventing the shell from changing.
Airships are unable to withstand bad weather. Small non-rigid airships have problems with flights in bad weather. There are several known cases of large vehicles hitting serious squalls and passing through them without issue. The success of the German zeppellins in harsh weather conditions was due to good piloting skills and the very design of the vehicles. British and American rigid airships felt worse in bad weather, but piloting errors and imperfect design played a role here. Today, there are two major improvements that reduce the dependence of devices on the weather. First of all, the technologies for tracking and forecasting the weather have improved. More powerful engines also appeared. The combination of these factors helps airships to safely navigate through the storm, or simply avoid it. Improvements in flight instruments, piloting techniques and materials also increase the reliability of today's rigid airships. Bad weather is dangerous for vehicles not even in flight, but during takeoff or landing. It is in the improvement of landing procedures that the further development of airships is seen. In the event of bad weather, these aircraft can delay takeoff or landing, just like airplanes 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 Hindenburg airship could reach a top speed of 135 km / h. Modern airships are limited to 90 km / h. It is believed that the further evolution of such devices will even make it possible to break the record set by the Hindenburg. Weather tracking technologies can help you find tailwinds, allowing you to accelerate and use fuel efficiently. Old rigid airships were quite fast considering their size. But they were still cumbersome. It took hundreds of people to take off or land. Today the situation can change with the use of automation, powerful propulsion systems with multidirectional parking options and other modern technologies.
Airships are an unfortunate branch of aviation. Despite working with unsafe hydrogen, many German Zeppelins were successful long before the Zepellin's Gindeburg. However, there were no cases of death of passengers. As a military weapon, any aircraft that is essentially filled with explosives is not a good idea. But when using non-combustible helium, the situation changed. In any case, it was zeppellins that were the first to be used by commercial airlines. So, the German corporation for travel by airships DELAG, was born on November 16, 1909. Until 1914, she made 1,588 flights and carried 34,028 passengers without serious injury to them. The airships crossed the Atlantic Ocean non-stop from continental Europe to mainland America. This is how the first transatlantic commercial flights appeared. For 9 years of its operation since 1928, the LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin" made 590 flights, covering 13.1 million miles with passengers. And again, there were no injuries in people. This airship crossed the ocean 144 times, while such a trip by plane was considered a fatal risk. During the heyday of rigid airships, they were vastly superior to airplanes in many ways. These aircraft flew much further and could carry more passengers in more comfortable conditions. Early aircraft were more likely to crash than airships. The difference was only in public perception. If a small plane fell somewhere, it was considered normal, part of the risk of the first aviators. But the crash of a large airship became an event in itself. If this mode of transport were allowed to develop in the same way as airplanes, then today we would see numerous rigid airships - fast, comfortable and efficient. After the disaster that happened to the "Hinderburg", the world community began to perceive airships as something unsafe. The development of the industry has stalled.
Airships cannot compete with airplanes. It is unclear why airships should compete with airplanes at all. These modes of transport perform completely different functions. Due to their smoothness, airships can take off and land vertically, hover in the air and spend less fuel. Such devices do not require significant infrastructure, as for an aircraft. The airship can carry cargo anywhere on the surface of the Earth. Most aircraft today require large amounts of fuel, resource-intensive airports with long runways. A large airship has the potential to carry heavier and cumbersome cargo than an airplane can. Its advantage is in speed, while its competitor has it in logistic versatility. Due to aircraft, the number of trans-oceanic passenger ships has decreased. Smaller ocean liners remain, due to their superior aircraft speed. And passenger ships are increasingly moving into the category of cruise ships, doing recreational tasks. With the advent of aviation, ships did not disappear, they simply changed their role. The same happened with airships. Unlike an airplane, where you have to sit for most of the flight, on board the airship you can look through the wide windows as if you were on the stage, stand at the gambling table, go out on the dance floor, have lunch and drink drinks, and then fall asleep all night in your cabin. At the same time, the sensations compare favorably with analogues. There are practically no vibrations, noises and turbulence on the airship. On huge ships such as the Hindenburg, many passengers were amused by the game. They put the handle vertically, balancing and holding it in this position. And she could not fall for a long time.
For their size, airships lift too little into 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. These were the most real flying ships that made it possible to travel in comfort. Passengers slept in their cabins, cooks cooked in fully equipped kitchens, people walked, read, ate in canteens. Whole internal compartments were assigned for cargo. The same "Hindenburg", "Graf Zeppelin 2" and the British R100 and R101 and new models of large rigid airships could lift up to 100 people, including crew members. There were many mechanisms on board for a comfortable journey, and a large supply of provisions. Two American zeppelin aircraft carriers Akron and Macon could carry, respectively, 5 and 9 biplanes along with the crew and passengers. German, British and American developers 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 surface area to volume ratio decreases and the amount of available space increases. The material required for the gas will weigh less relative to the total mass of the airship as its size increases. Taking into account the more durable and lighter modern materials that have appeared today, airships can become truly massive. Their potential is seen to be greater than that of any aircraft ever built.
The airship consumes a lot of fuel. It is known that the "Hindenburg" was moved by 4 engines. The average diesel consumption for each was 130 liters per hour. Consumption seems huge when compared to a car. But technology has gone a long way since then. In 2006, the world's largest airship, Spirit of Dubai, sailed from London to Dubai. The vessel flew at an altitude of 500 meters with a cruising speed of 50-80 km / h. In this case, the engine consumed about 30 liters per hour. As a result, this giant consumes as much fuel per week as the Boeing-767 only needs to taxi from the hangar to the runway. Modern airships have become very economical.
Airships have limited application heights. Large giant airships that carried passengers at the beginning of the last century had a maximum lifting height of about 2000 meters. On average, flights were made at an altitude of 500-1500 meters. Today it makes no sense to go higher, given 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 airships that could rise up to 30 kilometers and provide huge territories from there with communication and observation is increasingly being raised. At the same time, such devices will be invulnerable for air defense systems, and at a price much cheaper than satellites. The Americans are developing stratospheric airships that could climb up to 80 kilometers, making, in fact, a suborbital flight.