Tag Archives: Dirigible

17 October 1913

Zeppelin L2 LZ 18 (© Ullstein Bild)
Zeppelin L2 (LZ 18). The smoke is coming from the forward engine car. (© Ullstein Bild)

17 October 1913: On the morning of a scheduled test flight at Flugplatz Johannisthal-Adlershof, an airfield south east of Berlin, Germany, Marine-Luftschiffes L2, the second rigid airship built for the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin at Friedrichshafen, was delayed by problems with the engines. The morning sun heated the hydrogen contained in the airship’s gas bags, causing the gas to expand and increasing the airship’s buoyancy.

L2 New York Times 18 October 1913
L2 at altitude. This photograph was published in the New York Times, 18 October 1913. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

Once released, L2 rapidly rose to approximately 2,000 feet (610 meters). The hydrogen expanded even more due to the decreasing atmospheric pressure. To prevent the gas bags from rupturing, the crew vented hydrogen through relief valves located along the bottom of the hull.

LZ2 leaves a trail of smoke as it crashes to the ground, !7 October 1913.
L2 leaves a trail of smoke as it crashes to the ground, !7 October 1913.

In this early design, the builders had placed the relief valves too close to the engine cars. Hydrogen was sucked into the engines’ intakes and detonated. L2 caught fire and a series of explosions took place as it fell to the ground.

All 28 persons on board were either killed immediately, or died of their injuries shortly thereafter.

At the time of the accident, L2 had made ten flights, for a total of 34 hours, 16 minutes.

The flight crew of Marine-Luftschiffes L2 (via LZDEAM.NET)
The flight crew of Marine-Luftschiffes L2

A contemporary news article described the accident:

AIRSHIP AND BALLOON NEWS.

The Wreck of the Zeppelin.

ELSEWHERE in this issue we comment upon the terrible catastrophe which befell the German Navy’s new Zeppelin L2, on Friday last week, just outside the Johannisthal aerodrome, near Berlin. From the following official account it appears that the airship was making a trial voyage:—

“She started this morning for a high flight, with twenty-eight persons on board. After three minutes she had attained a height of two hundred metres (over 600 feet) when flames burst forth between the fore engine-car and the envelope. In two or three seconds the whole ship was on fire and an explosion occurred. At the same time the airship fell slowly head downwards, until she was forty metres (130 feet) from the earth. Here a second explosion took place, presumably of benzine. When the vessel struck the earth a third explosion occurred, and the framework collapsed. A company of pioneers and guide-rope men hastened to the scene, and doctors were immediately in attendance. Two of the crew were picked up outside the ship still alive, but they died shortly afterwards. Lieut. Bleuel, who was severely injured, was taken to hospital. The remaining 25 of the crew had been killed during the fall of the airship or by the impact with the earth. The cause of the disaster appears to have been, so far as is at present known, an outbreak of fire in or over the fore engine-car.”

The commanding officer was Lieut. Freyer, and he was assisted by Lieuts. A. Trenck, Hansmann, and Busch, with thirteen warrant and petty officers. There were also on board as representing the German Navy, Commander Behnisch, Naval Construtors Neumann, and Pretzker, and three secretaries, named Lehmann, Priess, and Eisele. The Zeppelin Co. were represented by Capt. Glund and three mechanics, and Lieut. Baron von Bleuel was a passenger. The last mentioned was the only one rescued alive, and he died from his injuries a few hours later.

One of the first messages of sympathy was addressed by President Poincare’ to the German Emperor.

Extraordinary scenes, showing the way in which the calamity was regarded in Germany, were witnessed at the funeral service of 23 of the victims, held on Tuesday at the Garrison Church. Upon each of the coffins Prince Adalbert placed a wreath from the German Emperor and Empress, who with the Crown Prince and princess, and Princes Eitel Friedrich, Adalbert, August Wilhelm,  Oscar and Joachim attended in person, while the Government was represented by the Chancellor, Admiral Tirpitz, the Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshall von Moltke, and many other officers. Count Zeppelin was also present.

FLIGHT, First Aero Weekly in the World. No. 252. (No. 43, Vol. V.), 25 October 1913 at Page 1179

Wreckage of the L2 at Flugplatz Johannisthal-Adlershof, Germany, 17 October 1913. (Photo Gebr. Haeckel, Berlin # 3227/2)
Wreckage of the L2 at Flugplatz Johannisthal-Adlershof, Germany, 17 October 1913. (Gebrüder Haeckel, Berlin  3227/2)

The Marine-Luftschiffes L2 had been designated LZ 18 by the builders. Both identifications are commonly used (sometimes, L.II). Technical data for L2 is limited and contradictory. One source describes it as having a length of 158 meters (518 feet, 4½ inches), with a diameter of 16.6 meters (54 feet, 5½ inches). Another states 492 feet.

Eighteen hydrogen-filled gas bags were placed inside the rigid framework and covered with an aerodynamic envelope. The airship had a volume of 27,000 cubic meters (953,496 cubic feet), and a lift capacity of 11.1 tons (24,471 pounds).

Four water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 22.921 liter (1,398.725 cubic inches) Maybach C-X six-cylinder inline engines were carried in two cars beneath the hull. They produced 207 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m., burning bensin (gasoline). Each engine drove a four-blade propeller through a drive shaft and gear arrangement. These engines weighed 414 kilograms (913 pounds), each.

L2 had a maximum speed of approximately 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour). At reduced speed, L2 had a 70 hour radius of action.

The Kaiser and Imperial princes lead the funeral procession.
The Imperial Princes lead the funeral procession. Left to right, Prince Oskar, Prince August Wilhelm, Prince Adalbert, Crown Prince Wilhelm, Prince Eitel Friederich, Prince Joachim.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 October 1910

Clément-Bayard No.2 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, 1910 (National Gallery of Canada)
Clément-Bayard No.2 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, 1910 (National Gallery of Canada)

16 October 1910: Maurice Clément-Bayard flew the dirigible, Clément-Bayard No. 2, from the Astra Clément-Bayard airship hangar at La Motte-Breuil, France, to Wormwood Scrubs, England, with six passengers. This was the first crossing of the English Channel by airship. The 244 mile (393 kilometer) distance was covered in less than six hours.

The Chronicle Annual Register reported,

The airship Clément-Bayard No. 2 travelled from near Paris to Wormwood Scrubbs between 6.55 a.m. and 1.25 p.m. Her average altitude was 200–300 metres, her average speed about 60 kil. hourly.

CHRONICLE OF EVENTS IN 1910, Part II, at Page 33

Gustave Adolphe Clément-Bayard
Gustave Adolphe Clément-Bayard

A contemporary newspaper article described the event:

LONDON, October 16.

The airship Clement Bayard II., carrying seven passengers, has made a remarkable journey from Compiegne, 52 miles to the north-east of Paris, to London, alighting at Shepherd’s Bush, five miles to the west of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in 6 hours, 11 minutes. The distance travelled was approximately 150 miles.

Later.

The Clement Bayard left Compiegne at 7.15 a.m. yesterday, the weather conditions being perfect at the time. Boulogne, about 75 miles distant, was reached three hours later, and then the trip across the Channel was made in three quarters of an hour.

French torpedo-boat destroyers were echelonned across the English Channel, and acted as guides to the airship as far as Folkestone, on the coast of Kent, and 71½ miles east south-east of London.

The Clement Bayard, however, outdistanced each torpedo-boat destroyer in turn. Tunbridge, 42 miles beyond Folkestone, was reached at a quarter past 12, and three-quarters of an hour later St. Paul’s Cathedral, 29½ miles from Tunbridge, was passed, the Clement Bayard on this part of the journey going faster than motor-cars following the airship. The remaining distance to Shepherd’s Bush was accomplished shortly afterwards.

M. Clement Bayard was on board his airship, and the passengers also included Mr. William Harvey De Cros, the Unionist member for Hastings, who represented the British Parliamentary Aerial Committee.

The Clement Bayard I. was completed in April last, and was on the eve of making its departure for London, when the French Government exercised its right, and acquired the airship. In August M. Clement Bayard made several successful flights in the Clement Bayard II., the building of which was started immediately after the French Government acquired the Clement Bayard I. In September, 1909, the “Daily Mail” completed, at a cost of £5,000, a garage for an airship on land belonging to the War office. It was constructed to accommodate the Clement Bayard airship, which was to make the journey through the air from Paris to London. The British Government has the option of purchasing the vessel.

The Mercury, Vol. XCIV, No. 12,658., Tuesday, 18 October 1910, Page 5, Column 2

This photograph shows the airship arriving at Wormwood Scrubs, 16 October 1910.
This photograph shows the airship arriving at Wormwood Scrubs, 16 October 1910. (Central News)

Maurice Clément-Bayard was the son of the company’s founder, Gustave Adolphe Clément-Bayard, and would succeed him after his father’s death.

The airship had been built for the Armée de Terre (the French Army), but because of the very high price, ₣200,000, it was not accepted. It was then sold to the British War Office for ₤18,000, more than twice the price the builders had offered to the French government. The British newspaper, The Daily Mail, contributed the cost of building an airship hangar.

After arriving in England, Clément-Bayard No. 2 was deflated for transport to another location. The airship was damaged in transit and was never repaired.

Clément-Bayard No. 2 was  76.5 meters (251 feet) long, with a diameter of 13.2 meters (43 feet). The dirigible had a volume of 6,500 cubic meters (229,545 cubic feet). It was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,590.75-cubic-inch-dispalcement (26.068 liters) Clément-Bayard four-cylinder overhead cam engines, which produced 120 horsepower, each. These turned two, two-bladed, fixed-pitch laminated wood propellers with a diameter of 6 meters (19 feet, 8 inches) at 350 r.p.m.

According to an article in American Machinist,

. . . This engine is a four-cylinder, vertical, water-cooled motor, of the latest Clement racing type. The cylinders are cast separately and are copper jacketed; have a bore of 7.48 inches and a stroke of  9.05 inches [1,590.75 cubic inches, 26.07 liters], giving a horsepower estimated at over 200. The valves are mechanically operated and placed in the cylinder head. A magneto is used for ignition. The weight is 1100 pounds [499 kilograms].

There will be two of these motors used in the new Clement-Bayard airship being constructed for the British government; each motor having a propeller of its own, although when desired, both motors can run one propeller, or one motor can run two propellers.

American Machinist, Volume 33, Part I, 7 April 1910, at Page 645

Two 120 ch Clément-Bayard 4-cylinder engines installed on dirigible No. 2. (The Old Motor)
Two 120 ch Clément-Bayard 4-cylinder engines installed on dirigible No. 2. (The Old Motor)

The airship was debated in the British Parliament, with a question asked by Mr. Herbert Pike-Pease, M.P. (later, 1st Baron Daryngton): May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks the action of the War Office in regard to this airship was justified? If the airship was fit for service, why was it not used, and if it was not fit for service, why was it purchased?

John Edward bernard Seely, photographed by Walter Stoneman, 1924. (The National Portrait Gallery, London)
John Edward Bernard Seely, photographed by Walter Stoneman, 1924. (The National Portrait Gallery, London)

Colonel John Edward Bernard Seely, DSO, (Later, 1st Baron Mottistone, CB, CMG, DSO, TD, PC, JO, DL), the Secretary of State for War, replied, I think part of the last two supplementary questions is answered in some of the replies I have just given. Of course, it is the fact that the envelope of this balloon leaked so badly that it would have been very costly to have inflated it. No doubt mistakes were made on both sides, by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, as well as by my Department, but we have not made half as many mistakes in this matter as our neighbours.

Mr. Pike Pease then asked,Was not the leakage known to the War Office before the ship was purchased?

Colonel Seely answered,It was before my time. There was a strong Committee of this House engaged in those transactions, and I understand they thought the airship was serviceable, and I suppose we thought it was when it was taken over. Mistakes must be made in a new matter of this kind. We have not made very many mistakes of a large kind in the matter of airships. We have been signally successful.

Earlier in the debate, Colonel Seely stated that,The engines are still available and are at the aircraft factory.

The Parliamentary Debates, 30 April 1913, at Page 1161.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 October 1883

Tissandier
Gaston Tissandier (left) and Albert Tissandier (Fine Art America)

8 October 1883: The first airship powered by an electric motor was flown by brothers Albert Tissandier (1839–1906) and Gaston Tissandier (1843–1899) at at Auteuil, a suburb of Paris, France.

The brothers were experienced aeronauts, having designed and built a number of balloons.

This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts Albert Tissandier (left) and Gaston Tissandier (right) in the gondola of their airship. A an unidentified third man is above. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts Albert Tissandier (left) and Gaston Tissandier (right) in the gondola of their airship. An unidentified third man is above. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The Tissandier brothers’ dirigible was the first to be powered by electricity. A 1.5 horsepower Siemens electric motor, turning 180 r.p.m., drove a two-bladed propeller through a reduction gear, producing 26 pounds of thrust (116 newtons). 24 bichromate of potash (potassium bichromate) cells provided electricity for the motor, which propelled the airship at 3 miles per hour (4.8 kilometers per hour).

The airship was 92 feet (28 meters) long with a maximum diameter of 30 feet (9 meters). Its gas capacity was approximately 37,500 cubic feet (1,062 cubic meters).

This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts the Tissandier electric airship departing Auteuil, Paris, 8 October 1883. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts the Tissandier electric airship departing Auteuil, Paris, 8 October 1883. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 October 1907

Nulli Secundus (Cale & Polden Ltd., Aldershot)
Nulli Secundus (Gale & Polden Printers, Aldershot)

5 October 1907: The British Army Dirigible No 1, Nulli Secundus, flown by Colonel John E. Capper, Royal Engineers, Superintendent of the Royal Balloon Factory, and Samuel Frederick Cody, made a flight from the Balloon Factory at Farnborough to London. After circling St. Paul’s Cathedral, the crew attempted to return to Farnborough but unfavorable winds forced them to moor the airship at the Crystal Palace. The flight covered a distance of 40 miles (64 kilometers) and took 3 hours, 25 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

The military airship “Nulli Secundus” made a successful trip to London from Farnborough on Saturday last. Starting at 10.40, with Colonel Capper and Mr. Cody on board, the airship—a huge sausage-shaped balloon of goldbeater’s skin of thirty thousand cubic feet capacity driven by a fifty horse-power petrol-engine—travelled to London at a rate of about twenty-five miles an hour, passing over Buckingham Palace and the War Office, and circling round St. Paul’s. On the return journey a strong head-wind brought the airship almost to a standstill over Clapham Common, and its course was altered to Sydenham, where it descended safely in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. From the spectacular point of view, the experiment was a splendid success, as the airship passed over London at a height of only seven hundred and fifty feet, and at this stage of the journey seemed to be completely master of the elements. Journalists who talk of “the conquest of the air,” however, or declare that Colonel Capper’s fifty-mile flight has completely changed the strategic position of Great Britain, will do well to note that gallant officer’s modest estimate of his achievement. The conditions of the experiment were exceptionally favourable. “At the start the pilot-balloon we sent up showed that there was no wind at all.” The slight breeze which sprang up was with them on their way to London; but the moderate head-wind at Clapham pevented them from making any progress at all. Colonel Capper summed up the lessons of the trip by observing:—”We have got a decent slow-speed airship which we can navigate if the wind is not too strong”—i.e., more than fifteen miles an hour—”and which can be raised and depressed at will without the use of ballast. We do not pretend that what we have done to-day is anything first-class, but we do say it is satisfactory as a first attempt.” We may further note that the return journey to Farnborough has been abandoned owing to the damage done to the airship by a high wind on Thursday morning.

The Spectator, No. 4,137, Saturday, 12 October 1907, at Page 515. 

British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)
British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)

Nulli Secundus was 120 feet (36.59 meters) in length with a diameter of 26 feet (7.93 meters). The envelope was constructed of fifteen layers of goldbeaters’ skin (the outer membrane of calf intestine) and was filled with hydrogen. The semi-rigid dirigible was powered by a 50 horsepower Antoinette engine. It was capable of 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour).

Several days later, still moored at the Crystal Palace, the hydrogen gas was vented through the relief valves to prevent it being carried away in high winds. To speed up the dirigible’s deflation, the airship’s envelope was slashed. The materials were salvaged and returned to the Balloon Factory, where they were used to construct Nulli Secundus II.

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO, portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)
Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO. Portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO, was a senior British Army officer, born in India in 1861. He served on the Northwest Frontier, South Africa, and commanded the 24th Division during the Battle of the Somme. He was also Commander of the Tank Corps.

Samuel Franklin Cody (1867–1913), photographed in 1909.
Samuel Franklin Cody, 1909. (Monash University)

Samuel Franklin Cody, born Samuel Cowdery, (1867–1909) was an American who had been an early pioneer in manned kites and gliders, airships and powered airplanes. His flight British Army Aeroplane No 1 at Aldershot, 5 October 1908—one year after the cross-country flight of Nulli Secundus—is officially considered to be the first flight of a powered airplane in Great Britain.

Cody commonly dressed in cowboy fashion, and appeared similar to “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose name he had adopted in 1889. He had been a performer in a “wild west show” that traveled to England.

Samuel Cody was killed 7 August  1913 when a new airplane he was testing, the Cody Floatplane, came apart “due to inherent structural weakness,” at about 200 feet (61 meters).

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 September 1852

Henri Giffard (Deveaux, 1863)
Portrait de M. Henri Giffard, ingénieur. (Jacques-Martial Deveaux, 1863)

24 September 1852: French engineer Baptiste Henri Jacques Giffard (1825–1882 ) flew his hydrogen-filled dirigible, powered be a 3-horsepower steam engine, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from the Paris Hippodrome to Trappes in about three hours. During the flight he maneuvered the airship, demonstrating control.

The Giffard Dirigible (French: “directable”) consisted of an envelope 44.00 meters (144 feet, 4 inches) in length, 10 meters (32 feet, 10 inches) in diameter, and had a volume of 2,500 cubic meters (88,300 cubic feet). The envelope was filled with coal gas. A one-cylinder steam engine fueled with coke turned a 3.3-meter (10 feet, 10 inches) diameter, three-bladed pusher propeller mounted to the underslung gondola. The steam engine weighed just 250 pounds (113 kilograms), and with the boiler and fuel, came to 400 pounds (181 kilograms).

Illustration of Giffard’s dirigible. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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